How do you take criticism? Do you seek constructive criticism and if so where do you go to get it? How are you at giving criticism, particularly to someone you know and are friends with?
All these questions are at the forefront of my thinking as I struggle through revisions on the memoir and work on my short stories. I have let a few select people read the memoir in its current form. And while they have it I worry, and fret, and worry some more. What if they don't like it? Will they be honest if they hate it and think it stupid? And what will I do about it?
My editor, Sally is also my friend and mentor. I know in my head that her suggestions about revision are in my best interest. Doesn't seem to change my reaction much. I know this about myself, someone criticizes, even constructively and my first instinct is to get defensive, to try to explain what they clearly aren't getting. I often have to let her comments sit for a while, to let them settle until there is less emotional attachment to them, then I usually find she's right. I have at times argued for my point and at times she has decided I'm right, or at least I'm not so wrong that it is worth the argument, but usually she's right, thats why she's the editor.
I recently sent off the first 100 or so pages to a friend to read. I trust her, I know she is well read, I know she is smart and I know she cares about my feelings. Her initial reaction to the first few pages was positive. I was feeling great. Then I didn't hear anything else, for days and days. I began to panic. Did she hate it and now was too afraid to tell me? Should I ask? Should I just let it all go? I asked. She has a life, she's busy, she has kids ... okay so I was being a little nuts about it. Now I worry that I have made her a little nervous to give constructive criticism for fear I'll really go off the deep end. Don't worry my friend, I'll try to keep my neurosis in check.
There is the flip side to that coin as well. When you have a friend, how do you try to point someone towards help without hurting his or her feelings? If you know someone could use an editor, or a creative writing coach, or a class, how do you say it without making that seeming condescending or rude?
Where does the responsibility lie? When have you pushed too hard and butted into something not your business?
How do you handle criticism, both giving and receiving?
I'm with Mr. Coward on this one; criticize away as long as it is unqualified praise. Just kidding ... kind of.