The most helpful thing I can do for my work is expose it, to breath the life of fresh air into the piece and let others help me do so. But just choosing a poem, just placing my faith into myself and putting it out there can be so trying that I want to give up. Unfortunately for the side of me that desires to give up, I tend to take work shopping courses, where the effort of exposing ones art is a pivotal part of the grade and the class. My first college experience of sharing my work was not pleasant, and actually induced a writing dry spell for a month or two where it would hurt to go back to my work.
But why would one be so sensitive? Well, my art is part of myself- it is deeply connected to my experiences, my emotions and my sanity. I feel like I am so great at this thing, this passion of mine, that even being slightly knocked off the pedestal is a sharp fall from my own opinion. But I need that fall sometimes. I need someone to say 'Cecy, I don't understand this metaphor" or "Cecy, why is this word capitalized?" Because even when I am writing the poems on to paper, even when I speak them out loud, without an audience or a critic, the whole thing is in my head.
So, as a necessary evil, there are some rules that have made later critical experiences much more helpful and rewarding and not so damaging.
- They are critiquing your piece, not your Work. As a writer, I'm connected to almost every piece I write, but when I walk into a workshop or any editing area, I need to accept that it may not be as great as I assume, and if it isn't that doesn't mean I can't ever write anything great.
- Choose a piece that is good, finished and flawed. Everything has flaws, no matter how many edits you perform, no matter how much love is infused with the piece. Instead, embrace the first two concepts when choosing- does the poem satisfy you? or Does it linger? It should not only evoke an emotional response, it should then make some effort to heal it or answer it.
- Don't be so serious. Even if some girl you really respect tears into your piece (or just a part) take it with a grain of salt. If, at the moment, you are really hurt, don't read her critique first. If you need to, find some positive feedback to focus on and expand upon and visit the critical parts later. There may be some truth the critiques of others, and there may not, but until you can be objective, you can't do your best by your work.
- Finally, Catalogue the experience. Editing, exposing oneself, being critiqued, they are all painful. We all want to feel like we are good and don't need work and being told otherwise is an emotionally jarring experience. But use it, instead of losing yourself to it. Write about it, about how you felt hounded by their critical nature, or change the experience- offer a comical outlook on certain painful comments. The point is, to keep writing through the discomfort and to keep work shopping. Your outlook will mature and the experience will be much less painful every time.
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