Monday, April 5, 2010

Bravery and Cowardice

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”

- William Arthur Ward

What actions demonstrate bravery? What actions or inactions expose cowardice? These are questions that I’m asking myself these days.

A blog can be a big ego boost. I’ve been complimented on the quality of my writing and told that I am brave for being a substitute teacher. I’ve even been called brave for writing, querying, and submitting excerpts for contests and critiques. I agree that these were all acts out of my comfort zone and I’m stronger for it.

But when are these same acts an admittance of failure? I’m not talking about the writing – I know that needs time, patience, and WORK (writing, editing and submitting). My husband said that my problem (among many) is that I’m setting the goal too high. If my only measure of success is an agent and a publishing contract, there’s an awfully good chance that I won’t be successful.

So, I have to keep in mind that improvement is a valid measure of success. How will I know if I’ve improved? Receiving better rejections (read – more detailed) is one way. But I guess my instinct has told me that I’m improving and I’ll have to trust it. As long as I continue to improve and enjoy it (when it doesn’t make me want to jump off a cliff), I will not stop.

I will no longer call myself an aspiring author. I am a writer.

What about blogging? Agents and publishers keep insisting:




I didn’t begin my blog as a platform. In fact, I didn’t know I was supposed to build one until I started mine and began reading other blogs. I blogged because chronicling the frustration and humor of subbing would help me get through subbing.

What is blogging to me now? I’ve found a community of writers, teachers, mothers, and all-around fabulous people. I’ve vented and received encouragement. I’ve dished out encouragement. I’ve spent untold time inhaling that sagiosity of agents and editors to improve every bit of my writing: plot, punctuation, grammar, voice, story, protagonist, antagonist, believability, cliché, varying sentences, show don’t tell, dialogue, inciting incident, initial surface problem. story-worthy problem, character development, climax - exhale) querying, and how to take rejections. How did I go without blogging for so long?

But if I look at my blog for validation, then it’s a crutch. This weekend I reached 100 followers and counting. (Thank you, followers!) My follower count is NOT a measure of success in my writing or subbing, so if I use it as such, it will prevent me from doing.

What am I not doing?

I had the BIG BIRTHDAY. The world didn’t end – it didn’t even hiccup. Well, that’s not entirely true. For me, the world skewed and it hasn’t entirely righted itself. I’ve made no secret of the anticipation/dread of reaching a milestone age without a milestone achievement to go with it*.

What if subbing has been for nothing? It was supposed to be a vehicle to get me a job. I was making connections – right place/right time – showing my teaching prowess. Never materialized. My husband called it a failure because I failed to achieve my objective. It didn’t even land me a building sub job, let alone an extended term sub position, let alone an actual full-time, regular teaching job. He empathizes with me getting up early each morning, waiting for a call that may never come, and being hurled into a different situation everyday. Then he asked, “What will you do if you’re still subbing in September?” The question punched me in the stomach.

So, what now? My husband suggests looking for something related to education. I could combine my knowledge of teaching and writing, and write or edit textbooks. There could be an interesting job related to education and no, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring like when I worked at the car insurance company. I protested that working around teaching wasn’t the same as teaching. He explained the term compromise. Believe me, he’s made many on my behalf.

My family has had to make too many compromises because of my failure to achieve my objective. I insist we live in a city, but it’s expensive. My husband reminded me that if I were willing to move away from here, we could afford a house and I wouldn’t have to work.

Why am I dragging my feet? What am I afraid of? It was suggested that I come from a family who settles. It was suggested that I don’t think I’m good enough. If that’s the case, then I have much to consider. I could cling to the comments of people who subbed for a year or two and then got a full-time teaching position. Is the economy holding me back or am I holding myself back?

Should I go back to school? I love to write, so why not become certified in Language Arts? The problem is that it’s not like there are thousands of openings in that subject either. Special Ed. would probably be a smart move. What’s stopping me? Going back to school feels like another stalling tactic. Would it hold me back or propel me forward?

I fear that I’m too old to not know what I want. I’m too old to be scared. I’m too old to be unsure of myself. I’m too old to be paralyzed into a state of indecision.

What’s the next step? I have no epiphany here but that something needs to change. Perhaps this is the mid-point protagonist’s realization that will dictate all actions from now on. I hope so because, right now, I don’t know the answers.

* The first post from my whinefest:


  1. Sorry things are tough right now, Theresa. They always make it sound like indecision and uncertainty is a thing for teenagers, but the truth is that anyone at any age can feel sort of lost in the shuffle and unsure of the next step. I think it's great that you're blogging and that you did it to share your experience, not for material gain or followers.

  2. Wow, this is a very brave and honest post. I commend you for writing from your heart. :)

    I've had almost instant success writing short stories. Maybe you should try that as a next step. I know that I need a little success here and there to nudge me on through my agent search, Also, one of my publishers is looking for manuscripts for children's books:
    You could try sending your work to them. (You can say Aubrie sent you)

    As for substitute teaching, I'm not sure if it leads to full time jobs. You're in a highly competitive area. I know I couldn't get a job done there. You could try going a little North or West and see if you have any luck.

    Substitute teaching is a great job in and of itself. You should be proud of that. :) I thought of doing it at one point in my life.

    Hope all of this helps. :)

  3. Bravery is getting out of bed every morning and facing whatever real life throws at you. Because it’s brutal out there.

    I agree with your husband to a point. Not about setting your goal too high, but that maybe you need to set some intermediate goals as steps to measure progress. Yes, the little things count as progress and success.

    I’m not at the point of worrying about platform, but I’ve seen agents write that a blog in and of itself is not a platform. I’ll see if I can find that for a later post of mine.

    As for subbing, that’s bravery. It’s a rough gig. I did it for a year, refused to do it anymore, left the state for a job, came back for another job just across the state line before being hired by a principal who didn’t go with the districts policy of only hiring its own high school graduates and other forms of nepotism. He believed in merit and respect for teachers and was the best, most visionary principal I’ve ever had the privilege of working for and they pushed him out the next year.

    I’m right there with you about going back to school if I lose my job permanently. I’ll do a Ph.D because I’ve wanted to forever. I don’t think a Language Arts cert will help you much. Those teachers are losing their jobs as well and not being replaced. Spec Ed might be a better option, but that’s a rough gig and those teachers are being cut, too. And they are carrying bigger case loads with fewer support systems in place.

    You are not too old to be uncertain or scared. That’s timeless and you are not alone. You will figure out an answer. Good luck hanging on until you do.

  4. Hi Theresa,
    I am sort of in the same situation as yourself.
    I too want to write and am facing a situation to make it pay or head back to a real job soon.
    My compromise is to try and leave my 'writing' to one side and try and do more journalistic writing that might provide an income.
    The 'real' writing is to be left to one side.
    Its frustrating for you with the sub work although you appear to have a gift for it.
    I still think editing your posts and producing some articles might find you getting interest and even paid as your posts are interesting. provocative and full of warmth and great insight.
    Submit a few and see what happens, maybe.

  5. Julie Dao, thanks for the comment. I think we all hit walls, not matter the age. Maybe that's why I write YA - I can certainly relate, for better or worse.

    Aubrie, thanks for passing on your publisher's info. I appreciate it. I've been thinking about trying my hand at short stories. You've posted parts of your pieces on your blog and I've been impressed by them. It's another thing I need to put time and focus in order to accomplish, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to best use my limited time.

    As for subbing, I've been looking in a thirty-minute radius.

    Sarahjayne, your'e right about teaching - it's rough out there right now. I have my foot in the door at the high school, so I'm hoping that if an opportunity arises, if I'm in and out of the building, I'm more likely to be considered.

    All of your points about teaching English and Special Ed are valid, which is why I keep thinking about it instead of doing anything.

    You're right - these doubts can creep in at any time. I've read blogs from seasoned teachers who have been let go due to the economy and are trying to figure out what to do. I just feel like I've been in this state too long and the "accomplishments" I've achieved in the last year are not enough. I'm hoping that blogging about it helps me figure out what to do next.

  6. Brigid, thanks for the advice. The other day you mentioned Oprah magazine, and I've been thinking about revamping a post to be an article. Instead of thinking about these things, I've just go to start with something and see how it goes.

    Good luck with the journalism and the "real" writing.

  7. Hi Theresa Milstein

    Awww first, HAPPY BIG BIRTHDAY!!!!


    Second, YAY to over 100 followers and even more to come!!!

    Third, well done with your growing instincts and feelings that your creative writing is coming along in leaps and bounds - that's a mega epiphany!

    Fourth, I hope you do find a happy compromise between what you want and want needs to be done by you and your family! I don't envy your position, I really don't because it's a very very difficult situation. I find it tough enough deciding what I want to be and it's just me and no-one else. It's worse (in the nicest sense!) if you have a family to think about too.

    I hope the blogging will help you, I really do.
    I hope you find that space to just clear your thoughts of all doubts and insecurities and find the solutions you are seeking or at least know clearer what is it you think is best.

    I can only wish you lots and lots and lots of luck with the direction you want to take your life and career next. Whatever you decide and act upon is certain to be another door to an exciting chapter of your life! Which kind of makes life a little more interesting.

    Deep breath now and take one day at a time.

    Take care and lots of hugs and best wishes and luck and good thoughts!


  8. I read a quote somewhere recently about following your passion and learning to live on less. Because they really do go together. I gave up a good position with Costco so I could return to school and get a degree in English & American Literature. When I had the degree I thought what now? Should I teach? But I was older & not wanting to go through all the years of training to stand on my feet all day. I could have done that at Costco for a lot more money. My sister said, "You're a writer. You should be writing." And those words fueled me and inspired my course of action. It was in my heart, had always been my passion, so that's what I did. I'm mad at myself for waiting so long to really do it seriously. Whenever I go to Costco I think about the money I don't have because of quitting, but I know it was the right thing to do. Sometimes there's a lot more to consider in our life's decisions than money. Even security. I had security there which I don't have now. There's always a trade off.

  9. A very honest post about your deep feelings. Sometimes we just must go with our passion if we can. Since writing is your passion, Go with it and go forth. Don't give up. It seems to me that your husband is saying to you that if you move to the country, you won't need to do the subbing and then you could devote your time to what you want to do. It may be a trade off, but it may be worth it in the end.
    I wish you all the best in whatever you decide.

  10. Old Kitty, I have to stop bringing up this birthday because you've sent me wishes so many times! It's come and gone. Thanks for all of your encouragement with this comment and previous ones. I just have to face these challenges instead of running from them, even if it means making difficult choices and (gasp) compromises.

    Karen G, thank you for sharing about Costco. I knew you'd been scared to send your writing out, but I didn't know about the other job. The fact that you put yourself out there has been an inspiration. And now you have a third published book!

    Choices, thank you for the comment. It's a tempting prospect and we may need to do it if we find out we can't afford anything big enough here. There are downsides, but I just need to move forward and figure it out.

  11. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

    This post makes me want to give you an internet hug. *Hug* I can so relate to you. This kind of indecision and limbo is something anyone can experience at any age. And I understand where compromise fits into this, and how, especially in this market, our ideal job may be difficult to achieve.

    But don't give up! You ARE a talented writer, and you sound like a terrific sub. If you like what you do, or you have an idea of what you'd like to do, go for it. It's not too late for anything.

    We always miss 100% of the shots we don't take. I wish I could remember who said that, a sports star I think, but I remember that phrase often. If writing is still your passion, and you're interested in getting published, it can't hurt to try, especially if it means that much to you.

    I'll be cheering for you on the sidelines. :)

  12. Shelley, thanks for the hug. While I don't want to give up (and I won't stop writing), I also need to start a career. I don't want to be a perpetual student because it feels like I'm not growing. Hopefully I get a job before I have to take something that, at least on the surface, doesn't seem ideal.

    I know that quote. I love that quote! You may like this one from Michael Jordan:

  13. A post from the heart. I commend you for it.

    Things will fall into place. Life has mysterious way of working out - just the way we want, more often than not. Generally when we least expect.

    Hang in there, Theresa :)

  14. Wendy, I appreciate your support. I keep telling myself that things will fall into place, but after all this time, I'm trying to figure out how to push to make these things fall. I hope you're right.

  15. I struggle with it too, but we are NEVER to old to not know what we want to be doing. I think you just have to reframe it a bit. You are on an adventure, a journey. You're pushing yourself and learning all the time - try and enjoy the ride. THAT is the accomplishment.

    And Happy Birthday!

  16. I just fell across your blog and it appears that it was in the middle of a serious conversation with yourself which is something I can completely relate with!!!

    I hate when you have to decide where to go next, it's never easy and I don't think there is ever a right answer only a what should I do right now sort of thing!

    You're doing great at least just talking it out and putting it out in the world!!!

    Happy Birthday!

  17. Rebecca, I'm trying to enjoy the ride. If I can't make a living writing or teaching, figuring out a third career option for the time being is daunting. I keep telling myself I'll get there.

    Jen, thank for visiting my blog. I guess it does sound like I'm in the middle of a conversation with myself! As I writer, I can't help but share it. Poor readers.

  18. I understand what you're saying.

    A lot of people thought that going to grad school was a cop-out of real life. I don't think so (most days). While it is a different way of life for a couple of years, it builds your resume. Also, there are graduate assistantships that can help out financially. I will never say that furthering your education is a bad move.

    I commend you for putting writing as one of your first priorities. To a lot of us, writing is still just a hobby. It takes a lot of courage to put something so unstable in the forefront of your life. Is it risky? Of course. Is it worth it? Of course.

    And as for subbing, you see it can work--just the right place/right time. I did the same thing--establishing myself in a school by being there often so they would recognize me. I think it can work. Those schools will realize what they need is right infront of their nose one of these days!

  19. Congrats on graduating from aspiring author to writer. I know that was a big step for me to call myself an author.

  20. In a world where achievement is measured by things out of our control, there is nothing wrong with using a blog as an ego boost. We all need some kind of external gratification, and hitting 100 followers is an indication that your writing is touching people (even if not quite in the way that you planned).

    Try not to settle. If nothing else, you can look back and say that you gave something that you really love a shot. The few times in my life that I took a real risk ended up turning out pretty well.

  21. Tiffany, there hasn't been one History job opening at the high school or middle schools since I started subbing. There hasn't been much more within a thirty-minute drive. But it just takes one job opening. I keep hoping. It just happened to you.

    I have an M.A. + 30 credits, so if I go, I'll be piling on even more credits.

    As for the writing, I know I have more time to do it, so I'll appreciate it while I can.

    Elana, for the longest time I couldn't even call myself a writer. I'm afraid to say author, since I'm unpublished.

  22. Theresa, sorry to hear you're kind of struggling right now. It is a really hard time with the economy, a lot of people are struggling. It's just really not a good time to be out looking for a job.

    If you moved away you could get a house and not have to work? Are you sure you don't want do that? That sounds like a pretty good deal.

    I hope you feel better about stuff soon! And happy birthday! I had a big one not long ago and it's really not the end of the world!

  23. I found you from Karen's blog. You and I have a lot in common. My goodness. I really enjoyed your post. I'll be a follower on your blog and you come visit mine. I've always liked the good old fashioned "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours," philosophy. =)

  24. I so agree: embrace your writing. I used to be scared to say I was a writer, too--it felt false to me. But as soon as I started thinking of myself as a writer, I felt more like a writer, and many things started to fall into place.

  25. You are never too old to be scared, too old to hesitant, to doubt the path before you.

    Remember these feelings now. One, you will be able to use them in what you write. Two, and most important, you will be able to put out a helping hand with compassion in the future.

    Emily Dickinson was hardly published in her lifetime and put down by the one critic from whom she most wanted affirmation. She was a genius. She was a poet of lyrical beauty. And you follow in her footsteps. Make them worthy ones. Each step forward against the tides of fear and doubt is a victory. You will be victorious. This blog sings of your talent. You can do this.

    Come check out my blog : WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS :

    May this week be the beginning of the best years yet for you, Roland

  26. Paul, thanks for the inspiring words. I'll keep taking more risks and see where it takes me.

    Susan, in some ways, it doesn't sound like a good deal not to work. It's a new idea on the table. I guess with my new push to expand the type of search and finally find out what mortgage we could get in Cambridge, we'll have to see where things stand.

    Melissa, thanks for becoming a follower. I'll check out your blog.

  27. Beth, I'm awed that you were offered a book deal from mostly writing during your breaks. Being a teacher is pretty demanding.

    I agree that it's not helpful to me to hide from the term "writer".

    Roland, thank you for telling me Emily Dickinson's story. I appreciate the inspiring and encouraging words.

    I've seen you blog and I'll visit again.

  28. I think the good thing is that you are looking at your situation and asking lots of questions. Sometimes in life I think we all have to re-evaluate, even if that evaluation only confirms that yes, we are in the right place, doing the right thing. But it's important to be aware, to adjust our lives, and to know we're doing what's right in our hearts.

  29. My opinion is going to school is never a step back, but easy for me to say since I wouldn't foot the bill.

    You ARE in a tough spot right now. You're not in anything solid. What IS the most important thing to you? Teaching or writing? Or do you really want to do both? If I were you, I'd move out of the city so I wouldn't have to work and could write much more *insert evil face here* but I don't have the passion to teach and I realize it might seem silly since you haven't gotten your "in" yet, writing.

    I think you're wonder woman trying to do both plus all the blogging. I'm having a hard time finding the time to blog and network, lately, just cuz of my little kids and trying to edit and read. But if you truly DO know you want to balance both endeavors (and be a mother!!) my only thought is to perservere and pray and keep working for progress.

    But I'm pretty sure you already know all this!!

  30. This is the first time I've read your blog and I feel like other than a goal change here or there I could have written this post myself. Here is where I am at though. You can't achieve your goal if you compromise, and if you do, the thing you want the most will always be out there as the dream you didn't, couldn't or chose not to fulfill. Will you be happy if you compromise? Unlikely. Is it OK for you to chase after something that makes you happy? As long as no one is starving, yes.

    If you have time, you might consider doing the lessons from the Artist's Way, by Julia Campbell. She has helped me understand that it is acceptable for me to go after what I long for.

  31. What an honest post. And so completely recognizable! I think we all have all been there. I surely have! Is it like the writing process. Let yourself not know for a bit and the answer will come when it is least expected. Sometimes that kind of faith is what is called for.

  32. Joanne, it's definitely time to reevaluate. Hopefully I'll have some answers soon.

    M. Gray, thanks for the advice. I'd like to do both. Before I wrote seriously, teaching was my passion. Once I started writing, I thought, I could do this full-time. Then when I couldn't find a job, I was hoping that writing would save me, even though I knew the chances were slim and the advances were tiny.

    I know when I work full-time, it will difficult to keep up with the writing - especially with being a mother and all that comes with it. So, when I get a job, it will be bittersweet.

    At some point, I have to go back to school to finalize my MA certification, so I don't want to take classes I may not use after already taking 60 graduate credits. Quandaries abound!

  33. Liza, thanks for suggesting the Julia Campbell book. I'll check it out. Most writers have a "day job" (or two), so I still plan to write, no matter what happens (even if it slows me down). Beth Revis, one of the commenters on this post, is a full-time high school teacher who writes in her off time and just got a multi-book contract. I have to hope that if I keep at it, I can achieve my goals.

    Tina Laurel Lee, I'm trying to have faith, and I just hope that the answer comes soon. You have a wonderful author name.

  34. Wow...I'm new here, having found your blog from another site (writing in the wilderness). Thank you for sharing your deep and honest feelings with me, a stranger.

    I AM living that boring existence, working for the same INSURANCE COMPANY for 25 years, feeling drained of any creative energy because the job is a life sucking endeavor.

    I admire your courage in not settling for that kind of life. Still, you do have other people in your life who depend on you; it's difficult to know what to do for yourself and what to do that's good for others. I think Liza makes a good suggestion.

    I'd like to make another one or two--if you do get a full time job (as I have had) it will take away any writing time you have, unless you are extremely disciplined (I'm not), an insomniac (I'm not) or willing to put everyone/everything off (I can't). If writing is truly your passion, then I think your best bet is to continue it and find a profession that incorporates that. And I don't think there's such a thing as setting the bar too high but you do need to count the little triumphs along the way--this blog, for example.

    At any rate, I wish you good look and have faith. Really, I've realized that giving up on writing is not an option.

  35. This was a really great post. Your personality shines through and I respect you for your honesty. I found this through another blog, and I'm glad I did! You've got a new follower in me - I look forward to reading your future posts!

  36. Wow. What a great post! I popped over from Sarah Jayne's blog (she gave you a great shout-out today) and I'm so glad I did. :-)

    Writing while teaching is not easy. You are awesome - hang in there.

  37. It is so hard to know what we really want to do. I've been through SO many jobs trying to find my way. And even if you do settle on writing as a 'career', there's nothing to say you're going to to be able to make a living from it.

    All I can say is: I feel your pain! Sending you loads of positive vibes from across the ocean.

  38. EP - thank you for visiting my blog and the comment. My cousin helped me get the insurance job. First I worked full-time and then part-time while I was in graduate school, for a total of eight years. My cousin is still there for over twenty-years. She's really good at it and prepares cases for court, but it was never my thing.

    I'm hoping that when I work full-time, I'll still make the time. Sometimes I'm at my most prolific when I don't have any time to spare. I'll also have off for summers and vacations if it's in teaching.

    It's not ideal, if I want to be a writer, but I'll do my best. Neither of us should give up on writing since it's our passion.

    B. Miller - thanks for visiting and following. I'll check out your blog.

    Shannon O'Donnell, thanks for telling me all of you were coming from Sarahjayne's blog. I was wondering why I suddenly became so popular!
    And thank you for the nice words.

    Talli, you're right - the chances of having a writing "career" that pays the bills are slim. The problem is that I really want to quit my day job! Today's sub job was far from stellar.

  39. That opening quote is amazing! Words worth remembering.

    Happy belated Birthday! And thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. :)

  40. Janna, thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

  41. Theresa,

    I know this must have been a tough post to write. You are so honest and forthright in it. I so wish that you could reach your goal of a full-time teaching position. You deserve one and I know you will be a terrific teacher for some school. Start talking to the Principals now. Go to the next county over and apply. There has to be something out there for you! You are such a talented lady!

  42. I don't know where you find the time to do everything you do. That's an accomplishment.

  43. Hello, I've been flipping through your blog today and you seem so accomplished! All you can do is try. With regard to teaching, my mother began teaching at 58! She started subbing while I was in high school and then began looking for permanent work. About 4 years ago, she was passed over for a job at one school (they hired someone who could also coach sports) and then the next year she got an amazing job at an amazing school where she has since been voted Teacher of the Year! The school that passed on her has since let go of the person they hired and many of the other teachers. While at the time she was really upset for being passed over for the first job, it has really been a blessing. --- Basically, I've told you all this to say that this wait may be the best thing for you to find the perfect job!
    Good Luck!

  44. VKT, that's a good idea. Especially for the schools that I've been to with greater frequency, I should bring a resume with me. The next day that I'm off, I'll get them ready.

    Thanks, Sheila.

    Kelly, thanks for sharing your mother's story. Hearing that makes me feel hopeful.

    Last year, I was an assistant for a teacher who had subbed for at least two years before she got an ETS in the spring and then a full-time job at the same school that fall. She'd worked as a fourth-grade teacher years before, but took a break to have children and had a hard time getting a full-time job when she returned.

    I checked out your blog when I saw you comment. Good luck getting into Teach for America!

  45. Definitely a quandary. So sorry!

    Are there any librarian assistant openings? That would be a fun gig...

    I am not one you should be taking advice from, but here goes anyway: I think you should see how hard you work every day (and I KNOW you do--at home--at schools--at writing--at mothering--at blogging) and call those successes. Internally you are a masterpiece of success, so drop the comparison scale the world would thrust upon you. Your happiness is all that matters: money, jobs, homes, and educations aside.

    I only say this because it was a tough lesson I learned when I had to humble myself and realize I couldn't do and have it all while working on my PhD. Something had to go. And guess what? The extra money and the PhD went, but my family didn't. And somewhere in that hard lesson I learned how to be happier than I had been in a long time.

    Anyway, way too long and preachy. What I meant to say was, "Good luck, friend, I'm always here for you. (And I'm ready to exchange crits again too!)" :o)

  46. Jackee, sadly they're cutting librarian assistant jobs. Most of them were part-time anyway, which would've been the same as my salary as a fifth-grade assistant.

    I try to remind myself of the everyday successes. Family is a worthy sacrifice, but right now the kids love their school and friends, and we love our city, but my income means we'll have a hard time finding a three-bedroom place. We'll see.

    Thanks for being a good friend. Let's get back on track with the critiquing.