I have a fear of looking at critiques when I get them on my work. I have enough confidence in what I do to know that the thing I sent out was not bad. Really, it’s the best I could possibly make it on my own. Still, I worry over what might be said.
Did a character come across in a way that I did not want?
Do they not believe the turn in the plot?
Do my sentences make no sense, or are my descriptions boring and cliché?
Will they discover a problem so big that I can’t fix it with a few simple tweaks?
The answer to those questions, every single time, is a certain yes. There are problems I didn’t see, characters I need to clarify, and problems that involve either an overhaul or a rewrite. It’s hard to face this, to know that my hopes that this time the draft was perfect turn out to be unfounded. There are many things to fix, and many of them are not easy, and it’s like a million tiny pains every time I see a new comment box on the edited draft a critique partner emails my way.
But it’s always wonderful, after I’ve read the comments, after I’ve made my notes. I see the story fresh through another person’s eyes, I know where I failed, I know where the story isn’t strong. And then I start to think.
Those comments, as hard as they are to read the first time around, are like continuous shocks of caffeine into my story-brain. I keep thinking about it, how to fix it. I pace the room, scribble pages of ideas. I become so excited that it fills my brain while I’m at my job, or doing chores, and I keep writing even during the times when I would normally feel burned out.
The comments fuel me, even — especially! — when they show me how much I have left to do. The story stops being something I’ve driven straight into a wall; it’s a puzzle that I can pick at and work out. The critiques help me see exactly what the problems are, and once I know what the problem is, it can be so much simpler to find the solution.
I’m afraid of my critiques, but I love them, because they make me excited again about whatever it is I’m trying to work on. Without them, I don’t know how many things I would ever, truly, finish.