Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sometimes Critiques Really Hurt

As much as I need and welcome my work getting critiqued, sometimes it really, really shakes my confidence. Especially when I get a brutal one after a few nice/pleasant ones or it's for a work I feel is publishable as is.

Part of it is the critique is pointing out mistakes I thought I'd corrected or that I'd stopped making. I think that affects me more than someone just flat out saying "Your work sucks and you should be burned at the stake". And no, no one has said I should be burned at the stake. (Though I may have burned a steak once, but that's another matter.)

I think the biggest part of it is the feeling of taking two steps forward and one step back. I know I'm improving. I can see that in my writing, in the construction of my prose, in the types of characters I'm conceiving, but it still seems that I can't get all of those elements to always line up.

It's incredibly frustrating because I know I'm on the cusp of producing really great work. I'm working at a level I would never have imagined a few years ago. While I may not get everything lined up perfectly I am getting things much more in tune, and when something is wrong and it's pointed out to me I can figure out ways to fix it.

I think I need two things to get my writing where I want it: Experience and instruction. The first I'm getting right now by writing short stories, editing, and then submitting them for critique and/or publishing. The latter I'm getting from listening to podcasts, attending conventions with writing panels, and attending writing workshops when I can find them. I really am hoping to get into Clarion or Clarion West this year as I have a feeling either of these would send my writing soaring.

On the flip side I need to consider where the critique is coming from. A lot of my critiques come from, a website I've probably mentioned in the past. In other words, they're coming from relatively anonymous aspiring writers from across the globe, often unpublished. This means I should take what they say with a grain of salt as they're in the same boat I'm in. Especially when they make comments about what will automatically get something shit-canned by an editor if I can't find any publishing credits to the critiquer's name.

Oh well. The best remedy for critique pain I've found is to step away from the computer for a bit, read, watch some tv, go for a walk, etc, and then come back fresh and take another look at the critique after some time has passed. As much as it hurts it's best to see with uncluttered eyes what the person is saying so that when I revise I can make sure I am producing the very best work I can.