For this week, since nothing new or exciting is happening in my current WIP (I’m still working on my first rewrite), I thought I’d switch it up a little and focus on a subject every writer faces: criticism and feedback, and really, why it’s so important. (Disclaimer: I’m discussing constructive criticism here. I am not talking about people shitting on your story just for the hell of it.)
This is actually pretty relevant to my life right now since I just (literally like ten minutes ago) submitted a short story for my creative writing workshop. For those of you out there that have taken a creative writing course, you know that submitting drafts to be critiqued can be pretty scary. I’m currently taking my fifth and final CW class at my university, but I still get a little nervous submitting my work, and don’t get me started on actual workshop day. I’m practically a ball of sweat and fear.
But, unpleasant imagery aside, I cannot stress enough how important listening to the feedback you receive on your stories is.
A few months ago I wrote a post for my other blog (Fiction Facts) all about this and for your convenience, I’m pasting it below. Why am I doing this? Well, for one, it’s always fun to share a story about how much of a dunce I used to be, but I think it could also be helpful to any of you out there that do struggle with accepting criticism.
On a whole, getting critiqued is a good thing, and here’s why:
Back in the day, I wrote a short story that I thought was everything. I thought it was the best thing I had ever written and dammit I was proud of it. I was so proud of it that when I submitted it for my freshman year creative writing workshop I was so, so sure that everyone would love it. That nothing could possibly be wrong with it.
Big shocker! I was wrong. My fellow classmates did not think I was God’s gift to the writing community. In fact, they had quite a few major problems with my story.
But, did I listen to their advice? No. I knew my work was excellent. They just didn’t understand my craft (so gross––anyone else hating how pretentious that sounded?). I felt so confident in my work that I submitted it for another creative writing class the following semester.
Untouched. No revisions whatsoever.
And guess what? The people in that class didn’t like it either. But I was so arrogant I still didn’t accept this. I still thought I was a better writer than my peers, that I knew what made a real story.
In case it wasn’t obvious I was a total idiot. And reading this back I sound like a straight up assface (I promise I kept these entitled thoughts to myself, but the fact they were there at all…ohhhhh so embarrassing).
Well, flash forward a few years to about a month ago. There I was, all ready to create another piece for workshop. Before I began writing, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the story I had written my freshman year.
And oh…oh did that story suck ass. It was so bad! I’m not exaggerating, I physically cringed whilst reading it over. I wanted to go back and slap my eighteen-year-old self across the face for thinking she was a BAMF when it came to writing. Because in just a few short years I had grown so much as a writer––not just in actual skill, but also in humility, in being open to the fact that I don’t know everything.
We’ve been over this, but NOTHING you write is going to be perfect, especially the first time around. And even after you’ve edited and revised to the point of actual pain, chances are it still isn’t going to be perfect.
But. As long as you are open to advice, as long as you are open to change, I promise you, you will become a better writer. Don’t be the arrogant dick I was. Accept the fact that neither you nor your work is a golden god and get over yourself.
Because, and I hate to say it, but if you can’t do this, if you cannot accept the fact that your story is going to need some work, cannot accept the fact that even as its creator you don’t always know what is best for it, then there’s a real possibility the only thing separating you from publication is yourself. Scary, right? Things just got deep. But it’s true.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to sell out or agree to changes that you know aren’t right. Use your gut here, but please do not ignore your head. Really think about the critique given to you. Go into revision with an open mind and you’ll know what suggestions have validity. And you know what? Your story will be better for it.
Don’t be afraid of change. Do be afraid of arrogance.
Well, there’s my little tale with a hearty splash of advice. I hope that this was helpful for some of you. I know how scary getting critiqued can be, and I know (believe me, I know) how much you may want to fight against what other people say, but if you open yourself up enough to listen––not argue or put up the defense––I promise you, you will become a better writer.