Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Being Teachable As A Writer

"Do you really want me to critique your work?"
"Yes."
"Okay, that's the stupidest thing I've ever seen written."

The above is the summation of several posts in a critique forum I was in when I was writing my first novel. The second sentence is mine. How does one take that kind of criticism? I had spent hours writing and editing the chapter. It was the set up of the entire conflict in my book. My response was something to the effect of "How else will I learn?"

I was a newbie at writing. I'd made stories up in my head all my life but had never written any down. Now I was embarking on a journey into writing for publication. What else is there to be except humble? I was in the forum to learn just about everything. The novel had been started in February and it was now August with quite a few chapters written and what I thought was a good plot, character development, subplot, etc. I knew, however, how much I didn't know. So I went where I could get some help. It was where I could find knowledgeable people to teach me.

The problem is that it takes humility to be teachable. It takes putting aside the pride you have in your work and letting someone less show you what you may not know. Maybe you do know but have forgotten and need a reminder. No matter what, being teachable's main component is being humble.

Several times in forums and other groups I'm in, writers have posted their work asking for critique. When given, they reject and are hurt if the replies are not glowing with praise. The refusal to accept the critique they asked for shows they are not teachable. They don't truly want to learn. Their pride cannot take constructive criticism. Therefore, their writing will not progress.

It is those who give you honest helpful advice care about you and your writing. Set aside any hurt feelings. Don't get your panties in a twist. Take the criticism and learn what you need to make your craft better. Be teachable. The day may come when you are the one doing the teaching.

The two writers who gave harsh critiques of my writing are now good friends. I still respect what they tell me. I still learn a lot about writing from them.

Are you a teachable writer?
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2 comments:

  1. I hope most people you encounter aren't that harsh. I've had only a few rough critiques. I'm fortunate. I found a few excellent critters early in my career and the bulk of the rudeness came from contest judges. Rude or not, I learned from their comments.

    Terrific post, Sophie!

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  2. Critiques are to "consider the merits." I made the mistake in my early writing in trying the "write by committee" method, which made me lose my identity for the longest time. Some areas of work have far less merit than others and should be fixed, not in a way that demeans or demoralizes.

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