Hello again! Ufuoma here and I have a quick question for you:
Show of hands? Who likes to be criticized? Anyone? No one? Surprise, surprise.
I recently joined a writers' critique group. Critiquing the work of others was a pleasant experience and much easier to do than receiving critiques of my work. The first ones were not so bad, but after a few days I almost began to dread checking my email for fear of what other criticism I might find.
One critic only read the first sentence in my chapter and sent me a note telling me that she gives harsh critiques so she would only continue if I could assure her that I was thick-skinned. My pride wouldn't let me admit that I'm not as thick-skinned as I would like to be, so I gave her the go-ahead to critique my work. The truth is that I haven't worked up the courage to open her emails since.
This got me thinking. There are so many possible responses to a not-so-glowing critique. You could internalize every negative comment and feel like giving up, believing that you got it wrong, and God didn't call you to write. Or, you could totally disregard any negative comments, believing that you know best; after all what do 'they' know? But I think most people fall somewhere in the middle - appreciating the feedback, pondering on the comments made and making decisions on what to implement and what to ignore.
I found that even though it's hard looking at a sea of red or lines crossed out of the work I put my heart in to, I was glad for the chance to be able to answer some questions or defend my reasoning for putting certain scenes in my manuscript. I was also sometimes thrilled at the new ideas I got from reading other people's suggestions.
Much of life is about finding the right balance and I've had to pick and choose what to pay attention to and what expend energy on. But to make the best of this gift (and indeed it is a gift of other people's time, thoughts and creativity), one must be open, totally honest with one's self, willing to learn and over all, love your story enough to want to make it the best story it can be, all the while maintaining it's integrity.
On the other hand, when critiquing someone else's work, let's not forget to be pepper our honesty with kindness. And be open minded about the story you're critiquing. It's not yours. What I'm trying to say is, offer constructive criticism, but don't knock someone else's story. You may not like it, but God may have given them the raw materials to eventually bring a beautifully crafted story to fruition and you could be a wonderful (not painful) part of the process.
I end this post with the awareness that I have much to learn and I'm grateful for the brilliant critics (teachers and encouragers) that God had placed in my path. I trust God that I am a stronger writer for them.
God bless you.
Ufuoma Daniella Ojo is a technical writer, working very hard to finish editing her first novel and trusting God for it's subsequent publication.