Dealing With the Critique Process:
If you’ve ever: participated in a workshop, done a reading, ever been surprised by the response you received after showing your writing to someone you know well, said something you meant to be serious but everyone assumed thought it was a joke (or the other way around), found yourself listening to a workshop criticizing “the masturbation scene” when you meant that part to be about your dead dog, been told a particular part of your poem was exactly what someone needed to hear that day, or come back to something you’ve written that was well received and 6 months later and realized how strange it was… you know how personal literary criticism can be. It can make you feel like you’re flying through mountaintops, the most beautiful you’ve ever been. Or it can make you feel like you want to throw yourself and your notebooks into a burning chemical plant. Or at least make you want to change your interests….
Either way, there’s not usually a very significant middle ground. Very few people don’t feel vulnerable in these situations. Throughout my own learning process, I’ve come across all extremities of criticism, and it’s taken me quite a long time to figure out how to consistently take criticism lightly and constructively. Here are a few things to remember:
1. Make sure you take notice of the fact that usually no one is addressing you directly. In workshops, people naturally just refer to certain lines, excerpts, words, or ideas. Even if you’re writing about yourself… they’re not talking about you.
2. There’s not a single writer that hasn’t felt self conscious when receiving criticism. But there are countless writers who have gotten over that feeling.
3. There are a lot more people who have improved from criticism and gotten over that feeling than there are people who have quit. Everybody usually gets there!
4. The fact that you care means that you’re at least a little passionate about it—don’t give up on something trivial.
5. If someone laughs at something you’ve written when critiquing, laugh at it yourself. It usually is pretty funny and everything’s more fun if you’re having a good time anyway.