“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 what my piece was called.
“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. Being first and towards the end was always awkward.
She said something nice, but I can’t remember what it was. 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 out something original. They kept their eyes away from me and repeated what someone else said. One of them said what he liked best about my writing was also what hurt my story the most. I think he cheated.
I’ve noticed that pattern before though. Each person who has had their work critiqued always had a few people who didn’t get into the piece. Their eyes stopped shining as soon as the story was mentioned. They either said almost nothing or nit-picked every single piece of information 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, something I made, 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 my mind. I thought I had learned how to handle critiques well.
Truth is, 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 maybe days, but I always survive. I’ll still write.