Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Can Writers Take Criticism?

I did something this morning that left me feeling a little anxious. I risked offending a writer friend by pointing out something in his latest story that bothered me. This man writes good creative nonfiction stories. He can tug at your heart and bring a tear to your eye and lump to the throat with his subject matter.

He could make a good story a great one by changing one thing. He tends to tell rather than show. Anyone who reads articles or books on the craft of writing has learned that showing is better than telling. Sure, we learn it but do we always use it? I'm not just picking on this particular guy because nearly all writers have been guilty. Maybe it's one of those 'deadly sins' of a writer. And I've been guilty of it, too. For one thing, it's an easier way to write!

Part of it is not making ourselves conscious of this little sin. Being in a critique group, I see it pointed out over and over again, so perhaps I am more aware of it.  Ah, there's a good reason for all writers to join a critique group!

When I read the man's story today, I knew what it needed to become a better story. To be fair, it was an exercise he'd written in a workshop, but it would eventually turn into a full story someday. I've noted the problem in many things he writes. So, I asked myself if I should point it out, try to help him establish a better habit. Would he thank me? Would he be so offended he never wants to talk to me again? Would he be willing to work on it? All unknowns.

I decided to write and point out the problem in as gentle a way as possible. I told him that my intent was not to hurt his feelings but rather to help him grow as a writer. I added that I work on that part of my writing world 24/7. I haven't had a response from him yet. Crossing my fingers that it will be positive when it comes.

The point of all this is that writers need to learn to accept criticism. My mom use to play a little game with me in my formative years. She often prefaced her scolding with "Just a little constructive criticism but you..." Keyword was constructive. As a kid, I hated statements she began with those words, but I did learn something.

If we don't learn to take criticism of our writing, we'll stagnate. Our goal should be to grow as a writer. Attitude comes into play here, too. If you accept the fact that criticism of your writing is to help you, not hurt you, then you'll come out a winner. I sure hope my friend has that attitude. If he doesn't, I may lose a friend.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I personally will always take constructive criticism with a light heart. I prefer to grow as a writer and, although I may not agree with you, I will listen and either take the advice or, well, not. So, blast away dear Nancy if you see me do something stoooopid. Great blog post.