It’s hard to imagine any more uncomfortable position to be in than at a table where several other people are openly discussing your work while you have to sit, mute, and just listen. But there is also no better place to learn a bit about yourself and your work.
I’m doing a community writing workshop at a local university. There’s a small group of individuals of varying ages, professions, and experiences. I got my first critique the other night.
Now I’ve done this before, so the experience wasn’t new, but it is always interesting to hear people talk about something you’ve written. Everyone has different perspective, a different opinion, and sometimes you get a mass of contradiction to wade through to find things that ring true to you and what you are trying to put forward.
And then there is the urge to say your piece. To explain. To argue. But you can’t. And that’s a good thing. It’s good because then you can’t spend time thinking about what you want to say, how this person or that is all wrong or exactly right. All you can do is listen and absorb.
You won’t take every morsel of advice, but some will land in the pit of your stomach and take hold. They will change your piece or how you think about it, what the possibilities are. It’s an exercise I highly recommend if you can come at it from the right place. If you can manage not to take anything personally and divorce yourself from what you’ve written and look at it like a reader, not a parent. At the very least it will thicken your skin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some revisions to get to.