Friday, September 7, 2007

Separating our personhood from our work.

It is important to remember that the reviewer or editor is speaking of your work—not you. Even if he or she says "the author apparently.... " or "The author.... something else" it is not about you as a person. If they seem to be attacking you unfairly and without basis, you are dealing with the nasty, adversarial critic I spoke of yesterday—the critc with his or her own axe to grind which actually has nothing to do with you. Disregard it. It is your job to put feelings aside and sort through the criticism to find the gems.

To reiterate: remember these two crucial points:
1) You, the writer, must somehow separate yourself from what you have written.
2) The editor or reviewer is analyzing the work, not the writer as a person.

That may seem obvious, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. When we pour heart and soul into our work, we may have a very hard time separating ourselves from our creations.

1) You may have to tell yourself repeatedly that your critics aren’t saying “You're a horrible person or a terrible writer. Look at what they are saying.”
2) (If that isn’t true, then the critic along with the critique should be summarily dismissed.) Dismiss personal attacks.
3) The next step is to let it jell for awhile, then come back and examine it objectively.
4) Rely on your judgment. Remember, you know the characters, the plot, and the purpose and direction of your story better than anyone else.
5) Keeping that in mind, examine the criticisms and suggestions of the reviewer or editor with an open mind to see whether they are valid or not.
6) Use what you need, lose the rest. Employ what it supports and enhances, and disregard what doesn’t fit. Many blunders, long boring passages, and inconsistencies have been pared from my work thanks to the honest and thoughtful critics who care about my writing.

I have come to appreciate and rely on “critics” as I write my stories. It is far better to write and be criticized, than not to write at all—or to write in a closet and never let your words see the light of day.

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