“Next, let’s critique Robin’s piece.” My college professor smiled as everyone in the class pulled out my piece, except me. I felt their eyes turn to me. It didn’t help that we all sat in a circle, facing each other. I had nowhere to hide. My teacher might have said the title of my story too, but I can’t remember the name.
“Why not let Karen start?” My teacher always phrased this as a question, but we all knew Karen had no choice but to start. She blushed hard and looked down. None of us ever wanted to begin the trip around the circle. Each student, one-by-one, had to compliment my work in a different way now. Being first or last was always awkward.
Karen said something nice. Perhaps it was about my description or random poetic lines. Not sure. The next one went easy too. But a few people around the circle paused when it was their turn. They couldn’t pick something original. They kept their eyes away from me and repeated what someone else said. One said what he liked best about my writing was also what hurt my story the most. He cheated.
I’ve noticed that pattern before though. Each classmate who has their work critiqued always had a few people who didn’t get into the piece. Their eyes stopped shining. They either said nothing or nit-picked everything they could find.
You can’t please them all.
I knew I couldn’t please everyone or at least I thought I did. People aren’t going to like my work. Fine. Okay. But when I see it in front of me, it’s like twisting a knife into me. Something inside me breaks as I notice how something I created isn’t good enough for them.
I’ve learned to take their critiques with a grain of salt though. I don’t change everything that they say to, but I keep what made them dislike my writing in mind.
But the truth is that when the critique is staring right at us, I’m not sure anyone is prepared. But I refuse to let their knives stab me every time. Once in a while, sure. It’ll hurt. The ache won’t go away for a few hours or days, but I always survive. I’ll still write.