Maybe I should be clear. I love THIS definition of criticism:
“The analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.”
If you are a creative writer, you know how hard it is at first to put your writing out there for others to read and judge. Somehow, we put a piece of our soul into our work, and that can mean that how someone feels about our writing is how someone feels about us. Logically, I know this is not really true, but it can feel true.
Ultimately, for me, it’s about confidence. Not just confidence that what I wrote is strong… or at least potentially strong, but the confidence that what I will hear is what will make my writing better and what will make others want to read it. I can say, “I write for myself” all I want, and even though that statement is true, it does not encompass the full truth. Brandi Carlile sings, “but the stories don’t mean anything, if you’ve got no one to tell them to” and that line certainly is true for me. I’ve got a story and I adore it so I will always have that, but I want the world to read it and like it, too.
And so when I have made it clear to friends and family who have been reading my drafts that I really do want the honest feedback, I have been somewhat surprised, but immensely grateful that they have all listened and done just that.
Obviously it isn’t as if all criticism is easy to take. Quite honestly, I really don’t need to hear another person tell me how bad my original first chapter was, even if I completely agree with everyone who is saying it and agree with why it was bad. There are moments when I just want to say, “Yes, I get it. It was crap. Let’s move on.” Haha!
But full criticism includes the merits of what I have written, too. It’s that spoonful of sugar that adults need as much as kids – students – do. It’s a tremendous high when reading or hearing about what readers really liked about my story and what really worked. I love knowing that parts that I am especially proud of are areas that my readers liked, too.
When I get the full deal, the feedback is authentic, and therefore meaningful. And this charges me in a great way. I read comments or have a conversation with one of my readers and I am excited to get to work on editing and making the whole thing better. And because of the authentic feedback – even the painful bits – I am that much closer to my final destination, which is to start down the road to possible publication.
I am just about to send a near final draft to another round of critique readers and suddenly hit one of those mild panic moments because 1-2 of these readers are impartial ones and this is crucial, because as valuable as the feedback I have gotten has been, almost all of it has been from close friends and family. I’ve had more than one of them tell me “It was just like reading a real book”, which is an excellent sign that they were able to let go of me in their heads while reading, but the fact remains that I was still in their heads at some point, which clouds opinions in ways that they cannot even be sure of. But now, with people who don’t even know me, I could get stuff that is even harder to hear.
But you know what? That excites me.
Because I love the criticism. You know, that one particular definition of criticism.
In the meantime I will also be incredibly impatient waiting for said criticism. Someone give me some ideas of what to write in the interim.
I bet some of you thought I was going to put in Brandi Carlile’s “The Story”… and it was tempting (and you should go listen to it, because it’s a great song), but I just used her for my last post, so I’ll go with Julie Andrews: