First the problem. Writers must seek criticism from others, especially those better than themselves (tournament Scrabble players study the strategies of those by whom they are beaten). It’s just like that or you literally lose the plot, and ten chapters later your tender romance that began on the sands of Nags Head has turned into an eldritch fable about the gods of the underworld. And someone has to love you enough – even just during workshop – to tell you that your poem has spinach in its teeth.
But not all critiques are of equal weight, and you don’t have to take them on board. If a dozen people unanimously say that they didn’t understand that your metaphor meant “penis” (a scene I witnessed, in which the workshopped burst into tears), maybe you need to rethink that metaphor, and no, you don’t have to descend into vulgarity to do it. Yet just as there are those who, when you lay something bare on Facebook, critique your life, there are those who do a worse thing and tell you something uncomfortable about yourself that is actually true. And this time it’s your writing self. And sometimes you have really gone quite wrong and have a lot of revising to do before the thing is ready for prime time. Continue reading