This post is inspired by Toddlers & Tiaras. Ever watch that kid’s beauty pageant show on TLC? Yeah, I don’t normally admit to it, either. But bear with me
I would never mock the hellions little angels participating in the pageants. In fact, this would be hypocritical of me, since when I was teaching drama, I did a little pageant coaching on the side. (Only in the talent department. I don’t do “pretty feet.”)
But moms are fair game. There was this one last night who, in the Mother/Daughter portion of the pageant… well, let’s just say her emphatic certainty that she could carry the pair of them to victory was… somewhat misplaced.
Which brings me to the subject of taking critique about your writing. Like anything artistic, you have to hold to your own vision, and have confidence in your judgment about your work. Because not everyone is going to like what you write.
And that’s fine. I don’t like everything I read, including some books that other people love. I also hate licorice, and put jalapeño jelly on my ice cream.
That said… I don’t want to be the writing equivalent of this woman on T&T. She was not an unattractive woman, but she was older and had not adjusted her hair, make-up and clothing to accommodate this. In other words, she needed some editing. More flattering hair. Less makeup. Some Spanx.
The real problem here is that she was so obviously convinced of her hotness that she wasn’t open to change. On one hand, she seemed really happy dressed in the clothes of someone 20 years younger, exercising on a stripper pole in her living room. More power to her. On the other, a good, hard look in the mirror (or even seeking the advice of the girls at the MAC counter in the department store) might have kept her from throwing away her pageant entry fee.
I see people at critique group like this. They read their stuff once, and when they receive constructive criticism, they never come back. (Or on a memorable occasion, storm out in the middle of the meeting.) There are even those who read routinely, get the same comments (over and over, from multiple people), but stubbornly insist that these people don’t “get” their style.
I say this all the time: if you don’t love your writing, no one else will. You should love it. But if you want to sell your book, you have to love it enough to admit when it needs some fixing.
Now, that doesn’t mean taking everyone’s advice. You’ll be ping-ponging all over the place if you do that. But it does mean weighing criticism against your own (open minded) judgment, especially if you hear the same thing from different sources.
It’s okay to make a decision to write it a certain way, even if you know not everone will like it. But it’s definitely better to do that on purpose than out of stubbornness.
Or at least, informed, purposeful stubbornness. (So says the most stubborn writer in the world.)