Taking Criticism

I’m in a writing workshop where online classmates and I will “exchange papers,” and try to critique them fairly. We are all grad students, but, I swear, there is always, always, someone who tries to be the English teacher, which is ridiculous because we are all English teachers. I usually struggle to find suggestions for the writer because this is a group of very good, but unpublished writers.

There are times, though, when the criticism stings a bit.

For example, I had a screenwriting class, and during the workshop, the professor and several students suggested I take out the middle of the play, put it at the beginning, and change the story arc of two main characters.

“Wait a minute,” I thought, “that changes them completely!”

But then, I remembered how, years and years ago (black and white tv, and no remotes), I was sitting in a feature writing workshop, cringing at the slight criticism of a nonfiction piece I had written. Like an idiot, I left the room crying and refused to make the changes.

I couldn’t take the criticism. I couldn’t take any criticism. My mother used to call me “thin-skinned,” and that is true, to a point. Part of my problem was trying to be perfect, without realizing how Don Quixote that was! No one’s perfect. But, sometimes, people who know what they are doing help you get closer to it.

Return with me to that screenplay, years later. Did I change it? Yes. And the professor said he never had a student follow his advice the way I did. Did I cringe a bit? Yes, of course, but I learned a long time ago to listen to people who criticize fairly and have your best interests at heart.

That’s all. I changed the play because I didn’t take the criticism personally. I used it to make my writing better. For the record, I earned an “A.” An “A” for listening and putting my ego in a drawer for a change.