Sunday, January 24, 2016

Take a hammer to it!

As a pottery student, my work was criticized, along with all my fellow students, on a regular basis.  The comments would range from, "I love the glaze combination!" to "That handle is weak."  Nothing personal was ever meant, or taken, during such criticism.  Exposing one's work to critical thought is supposed to teach, not tear down.

Writers are more delicate creatures, it would seem.  Though many in my various writers' groups post their work frequently, some are so defensive as to repel critical thought.  They question the critic's qualifications and the criticism's validity. It is like watching a mother protecting her child.

In large groups it is not unusual to find someone who enjoys being negative about others' work just for the sake of doing so.  A perceptive writer can tell the difference between an honest criticism and a simple tear-down.  One appreciates the former and walks away from the latter without comment.  Not all criticism is bad; not all require discussion.  Take what you need and leave the rest.

I learned that in crafting my clay vessels many things could go wrong:  handles could warp in the fire; glazes could craze or crawl; they could just turn out ugly.  When this happens I take a hammer to them, not wanting them to continue to exist in such a flawed state as a testament to me, its maker. I take the same approach to my writing.

Tell me - please - where my errors are.  I want to know if I have misspelled something, shifted my tense, lost track of who is speaking.  I want to fix it.  I want to know if my words sing or clang.  I want to know if my reader understands the story, the message behind it, or if I've gotten off track.  I want to know if I should make massive revisions, tweak it, or take a hammer to it!  If you just want to tell me my character should be wearing blue, save it.  If you are grasping at straws and just spewing negativity for the sake of sounding critical, I will understand and roundly ignore you.

We writers need criticism the way plants need sun and water.  It is a good thing.  Welcome it, use it, or if need be, ignore it!


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