|Photo credit: Roxanne Cooke on Flickr|
This will make sense in a moment. Bear with me.
Last week, fellow awesomesauce writer/twitterer Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse) wrote a post about taking criticism gracefully. I recommend the post both for its insightfulness and his masterful way with dry wit and humor, but I digress.
The post reminded me that taking writing criticism gracefully has never been much of a problem for me—and that’s not because I have the patience of a Tibetan monk (I don’t) or because I’m a particularly graceful person (let’s not even pretend). The reason I’ve been able to take much of the writing criticism I’ve received in stride is, in fact, largely due to my competitive nature.
You see, when I receive a manuscript or chapter from a critique partner dripping with red ink, I don’t see it as a mountain load of work (even though, let’s face it, it usually is) or as another chore I have to now complete. To me, a manuscript that’s been ripped apart by my most difficult and nit-picky critique partner is a challenge. The red ink dares me to be better and the notes are arrows giving me a not-so-gentle nudges to a much improved manuscript.
When I see weaknesses pointed out in my WIP, something riles up inside me challenging me to do better, to be better, to make this WIP the very best it can be. I “compete” so-to-speak, with my desire to submit the manuscript for publication now now now and the part of me that is exhausted from years of work on a single story with the perfectionist, challenge-seeking part of me that loves nothing more than to rip the weaknesses out of my work until I’m confident it has reached its potential.
I also adopt the same attitude when critique another writer’s work—to me, when a writer hands over a chapter or manuscript for critique, they’re challenging me to find the weaknesses (I know that’s not actually the case, but try telling that to my competitive side). This can sometimes make me a rather nit-picky critique partner, but I digress.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t get tired of doing revision after revision after revision only to have a critique partner tell me that it’s nowhere near ready. That’s not to say that sometimes I don’t feel like Sisyphus, forever pushing that boulder up the hill, with no end in sight. That’s not to say that sometimes this writer thing doesn’t feel ridiculously hard and I wonder if I’ll ever get published at all.
We all have those moments at one time or another. But that’s when we have to ask ourselves what kind of writer we want to be: one who buries his head in the sand and ignores the need to improve, perfectly content with his current writing ability or one who strives to continuously be better.
I for one choose the latter, even when it’s the more painful and exhausting option of the two. And a good critique partner can certainly help you get there.
How do you handle tough critiques?