Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Dreaded Critique

I belong to the best writing group in the world. Really. Having struggled for so long on my own, longing for helpful feedback, I know how valuable it is to have eight astute writers reading my work and giving me their thoughts. In the few short months I’ve been in the group, I’ve become a better writer, editor, and reader.

And yet, even in this group that I love and value so greatly, getting critiqued is hard. It’s like taking medicine—I know it’s good for me, but I still resist, clamp my mouth shut, feel icky while it’s being administered. The first time was scary because it was the first time. Last night was the second time, and though I was a little nervous, I knew the group, I knew the vibe would be honest but gentle, I knew the intentions were to help me, my writing, and my novel.

Even still, after listening to the group discuss my third and fourth chapters for an hour or so, I felt overwhelmed. Some thoughts I immediately recognized as true. For example, I need to weave my protagonist’s struggle into the narrative more, not take a break from that as I set the scene or introduce characters. The descriptions need some work—yes. The Spanish needs proofreading by a native speaker—yes, yes. Maybe part of why it’s overwhelming is that there is so much still to do. And if I think too much about how much work remains, it feels impossible.

So this morning I’m going back to biting off one tiny piece and working just on that. If I can figure out a small step and take it, I often trick myself into taking a few steps, sometimes surprising myself by how far I get. And if I’m taking steps, I’m less worried, more in the moment, and still moving forward.

Thank you writing group! I will let all your thoughts sit for awhile, see which stay with me, which ring true. The more confident I get as a writer, the easier it is to receive others’ thoughts without thinking I have to agree with them all. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, including me. The trick is to stay open, but also trust myself to pick out what is helpful for me and what isn’t. Easier said than done, but at this too, I’m getting better.


Kooky Carl said...

Great post! Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day. You'll know when you are done.

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