I went to college for fine arts. Every week for four years, I turned in something, painting, drawing, photography or, graphics, to be critiqued. The whole class would put their work up on the wall for everyone to look at. Then one at a time, we’d talk about each piece.
Some teachers raved about my work. Some looked at the very same piece and thought it was awful. I learned to walk the middle ground.
If a teacher truly didn’t like want I was doing, I dropped his/her class. I didn’t only stick with the teacher who raved. I stayed with the teacher who liked my work, but saw room for improvement. I never let anyone tear me down so I’d doubted myself or let someone inflate my ego. I wanted to learn and improve.
All that critiquing was good training for when I became a writer.
Everyone in my first novel writing class was either working as a writer or had an English Degree. I had an artist and graphics background, and had never written fiction before. I’m sure many wondered why I was there. Because I came in with the least experience, I improved the most. That doesn’t mean I caught up with the rest of the the class.
Similar to the art classes, everyone in the writing class turned in twenty pages from the novel we were working on to be critiqued. We would read the manuscripts on our own time and discuss each one, one at a time, in class. I was in a literary class, but I was writing fantasy. Just like the art class, some liked and understood what I was doing, and some were clueless. And just like the art critiques, I learned to listen to who was helpful and ignore who was not.
After class ended, I joined a writers’ group. Sometime later, my teacher reread my manuscript. She said I had improved a thousand fold because of what I learned from them.
Criticism is good, but it’s not good to let someone beat you down.
A girlfriend went to a six week writing workshop at a prominent writing school. She planned to spend her afternoons working on her novel and mornings in class learning. She was excited about the possibilities.
She came back wounded.
Every morning, the class handed out manuscripts to be critiqued the next day. There was so much to read, there was no time to write. Then the class tore every manuscript apart without any encouragement. After six weeks of that, she was ready to give up writing. If I had gone to the same workshop, I’m not sure I would have stayed.
At the Loft in Minneapolis, MN, the class is told not to be rude, give helpful advice and encouragement.
Critiques can be helpful. You might think you have written the best ever, but someone else will tell you how you can improve.I highly recommend joining a group you can trust. But don’t let anyone beat you down so you’re afraid to write. Drop them and find better a better writers’ group.
Most importantly, have fun and keep writing.