When preparing for cases, lawyers will often participate in something called “moot court,” a practice session of arguments before the jury, in which their peers will pretend to be the judges, jury, and opposing counsel. The exercise is meant to give these lawyers practice in stating their cases, putting their evidence in order, and, most importantly, preparing for questions, objections, and statements they may not have thought of by themselves.
In creative circles, we often will participate in critiques, whether formal or informal, where we ask for feedback on our latest work with an open mind. However, critique sessions are often focused on what we consider “constructive criticism,” where the people giving feedback stay within strict parameters, sparing the harshest critique if it doesn’t lead to a direct way to make improvements. However helpful critique sessions and feedback from friends and colleagues can be, our work is ultimately judged by the public-at-large, who have no interest in sparing our feelings or helping us improve.
Perhaps there would be some value in creating our own creative “moot courts,” where we ask trusted friends and other creative artists to take a look at our work with not just a critical eye, but from the perspective of a hostile audience. This would have to be handled very carefully, of course, as our work is very important to us and feelings get hurt easily over it, but how invaluable could it be to hear the harshest criticism coming from people we know are giving it to us because it will help us improve? Instead of couching negative observation in an “Oreo method” of good, needs improvement, good, we could just get hit with all the things we could change to make our work shine in a place where we know it’s from someone we trust.
There is a huge risk taken with this type of approach, and it’s not something any artist (or especially their friends) should take on lightly. Feelings can get hurt. Creative people are easily disheartened, and can often lose motivation from being told about shortcomings we’ve felt in our hearts were true. So if this is an approach you’re considering, make sure there are rules around how long these sessions can last, what is on and off the table, and what you’ll do after the session to make sure that the relationships between the artists and those giving harsh critiques don’t get strained or ruined due to this practice.
Is this something you’d ever consider, as an artist? Let me know in the comments below.