Nobody is Perfect, Not Even Me

Until a year or two ago, we homeschooled one of our kids. It was hard sometimes, especially when I had to tell them they got something wrong. They beat themselves up so much about it, I felt bad. But I told them, "Nobody, NOBODY, gets 100% the first time. Not even me."

When it comes to critiques of my own work, though, I'm just as messed up. Especially when I was first starting, I didn't send my work out for critique so much as I sent it out so people could tell me it was good.

It doesn't work. Cuz when they tell you something isn't working, it DEVASTATES you. "I suck at this!" you say. "I'll never be a good writer. I should just quit right now."

Maybe you don't say that, but I sure did. But really it was my fault. I mean, when I say, "Tell me how good it is," even subconsciously, the only room for deviation is down.

"But what if they do tell you it's good?" See, that's the other thing. If someone tells you your work is perfect and you shouldn't change a thing, they're either wrong or lying. Nobody is perfect, and no book is perfect. Or if there is a perfect book, I haven't read it. I certainly haven't written it. Nobody gets 100% the first time.

With our homeschool student, it wasn't that they got problems wrong. It's that they expected to get them all right. Same thing here: I can't send my work out to be told it's perfect, I send it out because it's NOT perfect, and I need to know where. When people tell me something's off, I need to thank them because that's exactly what I want to hear.


Matthew MacNish said...

The best critiques go into detail about what they liked, and WHY it worked for them, as well as detailing what they didn't like, what confused them, and pointing out repeated words and ideas.

It is really tough to hear negative things about something you've poured so much of your heart into, but you're absolutely right, no one is perfect, and if you care about getting published you should care about making your writing the best it can possibly be just as much.

lotusgirl said...

Exactly. Great post.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

One thing I love about my writing group is that we know and trust each other so much. We can tell each other how much we swoon/gasp/cry during each other's stories and still effectively point out the things that need to change without fearing we're hurting each other.

I'm in a tricky spot of sending out an MS to two trusted critters before it's really ready. I wouldn't normally do this, but I'm in a bit of a time crunch, and need feedback on some story elements. I find myself wanting to write an apology:

Dear Lovely Critiquers,

Please ignore the many small examples of suckiness in this manuscript, and help me find the larger examples of suckiness, so that I may fix those before anyone else has to look at them.

Fondest Regards,