Most people don’t like criticism. At least I don’t. I like approval and affirmation, a pat on the back and a “Good job!” So it doesn’t come naturally to ask to be criticized. That’s like asking for my feelings to be hurt.
When I first started writing, it was a private thing – something for my eyes only. Writing is a baring of the soul so to speak, revealing our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is an extension of who we are, and is very sensitive to exposure. However, as I plunged into the open world of writing, it was recommended that I have some seasoned writers or editors review my writing and offer their opinions. Attendance at writers’ conferences afforded me the opportunity.
So I took my meager efforts and gingerly handed them over to these professionals. In the writing world, this is called asking for a critique. In other words, asking for criticism. And more often than not, paying for it! The dictionary defines “critique” as “to discuss or comment on something such as creative work, giving an assessment of its good and bad qualities.” So, it shouldn’t be all bad, right?
I must admit it was hard to take the negative comments. But I was encouraged by the positive ones I received, and thankfully, they were delivered in a gentle manner. After all, these people have been down the same road, so they know what it means to have their work criticized. However, I still had to deal with the negative, which I didn’t like. Plus it hurt. It meant my work wasn’t perfect, that it didn’t measure up.
But after I got my emotions out of the way, I reread the comments marked on my manuscripts. I saw that what they said made sense, and that if I took their advice, the writing was even better. And the realization that I could improve was uplifting and inspired me to try harder, to do better next time.
It took me awhile to relate writing to other things in life, for instance, sports. Professional players hire coaches to tell them what they’re doing wrong and how to do it right. The goal is to continue to improve, to be the best one can be, whatever the sport.
And that’s the way writing is – a continuous pursuit toward perfecting the skill. I now have the blessing of three wonderful critique partners who read and edit my writing. And I can truly say, I’d be lost without them. It’s interesting how each of the three sees something different, something I missed, something that could be improved upon. We benefit from each other’s knowledge and different point of view as we exchange our manuscripts.
No, I still don’t like criticism (just ask my critique partners); however, I’ve come to embrace it as a means toward a goal. Without it, I’d have no way of knowing how far along I am on the path.