Finding Joy In Critiques

Mary Rakow spoke at Tri-Valley Writers on what editors or agents might do with your first page. She had a lot of good advice, but the best piece was about weighing the suggestions an editor might make. She told us the advice we should take is the advice that makes us say joyfully, “Yes, that’s exactly what the story needs.”

That seems like a simple thing, but it requires two decisions from us as writers. First, it requires our commitment to making the story better. The only time I could ever say for certain that I had done all that needed doing was when I briefly volunteered as a bookkeeper. If all the numbers added up at the end, my job was finished. Every other job, task, or project I’ve ever attempted has always left me knowing that the outcome could be better if I worked more. Deadlines and conflicting schedules often made that impossible, but I still knew there was room for improvement. As long as we accept that concept about our work, we’ll continue to grow as writers

The second requirement is that we pull ourselves out of denial and honestly look at each paragraph, each sentence, each word and be willing to let it go. That’s harder than you might think. Do it anyway. When you train yourself to approach your work honestly, you will find joy in critiques. After all, it’s helping you get closer to putting the brilliant story dancing in your head on the page, so others can enjoy it too.

Luck and wisdom!