On Writing: Handling Criticism

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Recently, I asked a friend to take a look at a poem I had written. I don’t write poetry very often (I average two a year), but I was pretty proud of this one. So proud I thought I might try to submit it somewhere, and I’ve submitted exactly one thing in the last two years.

I trust this friend’s opinion because she is a very talented writer. I trust this friend’s opinion because she writes a lot of poetry herself, poetry that digs its way to my heart, turns in a circle three times and settles in for a long nap. She also introduces me to a lot of poetry that mostly jibes with the poem I wanted to share with her. I thought to myself, If anyone could love this poem the way I love it, it’s her.

But she didn’t.

Like, at all.

Where I (naïvely) thought there’d be lots of underlines followed by “<3 this!”, there were giant, three-story tall Xs and comments that ran into the margins and dribbled down the page. In short, she thought the message was unclear, the story boring, and she wanted me to change the whole thing.

Well, shucks. It stung to read all that. As I read her suggestions and comments, I kept thinking, She’s wrong, she’s wrong. How could she be so wrong? But thankfully, this is not my first rodeo. I know how to ride the Bull of Criticism. I got to the bottom of the page and made myself think, She’s not wrong. You just didn’t express yourself clearly. And when I forced myself to think that way, I was no longer hurt. I became determined to rewrite the poem in a better way, so that everyone who reads it will know exactly my intentions, and they will feel exactly the way I felt when I wrote it. Because my poem is worth sharing, and when I do, I want it to connect with all who hear it. Thank you, to all the critical friends out there, for being the editors we may not want, but definitely need.

Share your experiences with criticisms and revisions with me at Kate@KateLanders.com.