Zen and the art of Taking Critiques
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Even the most well meaning and helpful critique can hit us as hard as a strike from a prize fighter.
Think about it. When you ask for a critique, you’re asking to get your heart pulled out of your chest, you are requesting to be belittled, and you are opening yourself up to insult.
You hand over your hard work. Something you have invested blood, sweat, and tears in. You tell the person not to hold back. You ask them to find every fault your work might have.
So with all that in mind, knowing you asked for this, why is taking a hard critique so difficult?
It's because no matter how thick you say your skin is, it's not.
Your work, your short story, novella, or novel is a part of you. Any fault found with it, is the same as finding fault with you.
Or at least that is how we might take it.
Stop right there.
Your work is your creation but it is not you.
It's that kind of thinking; taking anything negative as a personal attack. That's what makes us too pig-headed to accept the help behind what we perceive as scathing words in a critique.
I'm talking real critiques here, not just random opinions on your work. Remember opinions are like A... er, well you know the saying.
A true critique that is meant to help, will be both hard hitting and truthful. It's not a compliment session, it's a "here is what you did wrong," session. It is going to point out every flaw that particular person finds in your writing and it will hurt.
So how do you deal with it?
Find your happy place and calm down. Silence your instinct to defend your work. Shut out the negative thoughts about the person who has just wounded your pride.
Never respond immediately to any critique you are given. Your likely to lash out like a wild jungle cat defending its offspring and that's not going to be a pretty site.
It takes time for you to accept what is being said and to filter out what is actually helpful and what is not.
Think about what has been said or written to you. Look for the positive message.
Are they really telling you they hate your story or are they telling you that your writing is too passive and you need to fix that?
Did they say your character sucked or did they say they needed more information to better understand your character?
Did they say your dialogue is not worth the paper it's written on or did they suggest you might freshen it up a bit?
Critiques always sound hard the first time you read them. You have to really let the words sink in so that you recognize what is being said and what it means.
Only then can you use the critique and improve your work.
So remember, the next time you recieve a particularly harsh critique on your work.
Take a step back,
and really look at what is being said.
Liana Brooks wrote a blog this week along the same subject. She points out what to do after you have gotten a critique, editing letter, or rejection. Definitely worth a look.