Baby in the Blender: How I Learned to Love Critique

in #fiction3 years ago (edited)

We all write for different reasons, but sometimes I think that deep down, I think part of the motivation for writing at all is that we want to be loved. Just a bit. Maybe that’s why we take it so hard when people point out the flaws in our writing. It feels like rejection, and it hurts.

Let me paint you a picture.

You’re a writer. You just know you are. And you’re excited to do more of it. You’re so excited that you find a group--maybe it’s an online group--and you join because you want the company of fellow writers. So far so good. They have a peer review system. It’s a system where you can post some of your writing and the other writers will comment on it for you. You think to yourself, "That sounds a bit frightening, but really, I’m a writer, so how bad can it be?" You build up your courage and finally you are prepared to post some of your work.

This is no ordinary writing. This is your writing. This writing is also imbued with certain personal qualities unique to you. It is tied inexorably with your self-worth, your ego. It contains the seeds of your dream of being a published writer, or poet or technical writer. With great trepidation, you load your baby--for that is how you now feel about it--into the group’s peer review system. And you hold your breath.

You with me so far?

Here’s where it gets a little messy. If you are squeamish I recommend looking away here, because it is at this point that those bastards rip and tear and shear and maul and stomp your baby into the blood-stained earth, before digging it up and tossing what’s left into the blender. At least this is how it feels.

Remember, this is no ordinary piece of writing. This one is special. It’s become more than a story, a poem, an article, a blog post. It’s part of you. It contains a chunk of your soul. It is a symbol of what you aspire to be: a writer, an author, a poet.

With every word your eyes narrow. Your eyes scan down the page little by little, stopping at all the little call-outs, the carefully worded suggestions. Every one of them sets off a tiny incendiary device in your veins. You feel yourself getting warmer. Let’s be real here. It’s anger. How dare they not love my story? How dare they rip into my article? Who are they to not recognize my talent and the sheer brilliance of my prose?

Image courtesy of the wonderful and very talented @bex-dk .

Here’s the thing. We’ve all been there. Like I said above, I truly believe that deep down, on some level, all of us are looking for validation. We want people to say, “That was the best thing I’ve ever read.” And maybe it really is. But the expectation that someone will look at the literary equivalent of the crap we just took on the living room carpet and see it for a flawless diamond is laughable. And make no mistake, most unedited writing is the equivalent of an unwanted living room turd.

“Surely you don’t mean that?" I hear you ask. Don’t I? Writing is, they say, a craft. Craft can be defined as “an activity involving skill in making things by hand.” There will be some people somewhere for whom writing is natural. They can just do it. Maybe they don’t even know how or why it works. For them, it just does. Those people are freaks. For the rest of mankind, writing is a craft, which means that it is something that needs to be worked at. And even those freaks benefit from working at it. It involves the development of skills. And how do you develop skills? Well that, dear reader, is done through practice, and lots of it.

I will let you in on a little secret though, but you’ll need to lean in close. There is a shortcut. That short cut is peer review. To practice writing every day and to have the flaws and repeated errors and areas for improvement called out, and to help others by doing the same is an awesome combination and what I recommend for improving writing skills fast. When combined with lots of reading as well, it is a shortcut to great, confident writing.

I’ll tell you what doesn’t work. Thinking you know it all already. Oh, you may think from the tone of this that I believe I have it all figured out. It’s all very well to be preachy in an article. Well, the truth is, I don’t have it all figured out. I learn something new every time I write and every time someone takes the time to critique my work--every time they give me the gift of a critique.

This is not always easy to do. It takes a certain mindset. Sometimes it hurts. Especially when deep down you realize they’re probably right.

If you can find your way past the ego and the pain and learn to love the heat, well that is where the benefits lie. I know you can do it. Just empty your cup. Spill out a little of the tea to make room for some more, and open yourself to the idea that every call-out and comment is a gift.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The next time you go along to that writing group and you work up the courage to put your baby into the blender (ahem… the peer review system), just remember: it’s not a baby, it’s just words strung together. And you can learn to do that better, because writing is a craft, and crafts require perseverance and practice.

If you can do that, you will be on the fast track to achieving those writing goals and dreams. Hopefully we will meet up along the way.


Upvote and resteem, I almost understood 5% of your content. Keep going zombie.

5%? And I was working on making this totally incomprehensible... goes back to the drawing board

No, do not go back to the drawing board. Go back to the future and express yourself straight out of the revolver.

Plays power chord As long as I can take my strat.

Haaaaaa ha ha haaaaa... now you have me down to 0,1%. No fuckn understand M8.

:-) My work here is done!

I have heard that term of arrogant Australians handballing their work to others. Anyone who says that, has not done their work. Now now, I better get back to my work. ;-)

This resonated with me. Putting my work up for other people to critique is scary, even if the help is something I want. My biggest fear is of wasting someone else's time by making them read or edit something I wrote.

I just want my writing to be good enough and I'm glad I found a community to help me achieve that. With time and confidence, I hope to offer the same to you.

Very well said, @alheath. The fact that you are putting yourself out there and opening up to critique will give you a big leg up in developing your craft.

Very true, Zombie. It isn't easy to go through--even with experience the feedback still stings sometimes... often in the "I know better than that... how could I be so stupid" sense or the "But... but... but I love that line...." sense of killing our darlings.

This post went through an editing process too. And contained at least one hilarious error which shall remain nameless. Point is, everything is better with an edit.

I would pay real money to see that hilarious error. LOLOL

Let's pool some funds Rhonda, I'd like to see that too.

I love that you admit in this wonderful piece that even accomplished writers don't know everything, and that you make hilarious errors too. This post really made me smile. I love your sense of fun, and that you address the scary aspects of putting your work out there head on.

I think you have to check your ego at the door of the workshop room, as both a writer and an editor, because it's not about you, it's about the work. A critique that sets out to make the writer feel good is no a good critique.

The work is the thing.

Great points. And the flip side too--a critique that deliberately sets out to hurt the writer's feelings is also no good. As you say, it should be about the work, not the writer and not the editor.

This was brilliant! I had this whole revelation. As someone who would like to be good at writing, I have felt the "But that's my baby!" feeling, but what you said about it only being words strung together struck a cord. The words you choose isn't the baby, the story is. So, let the hack saw come! Haha! Thanks so much for this perspective!

YES! Exactly! This is the perspective folks need. It isn't about hurting you or destroying anything. It's about helping you become a better author and helping make your story the best story it can be!

Thank you @bex-dk! I hope I continue to keep that perspective haha. Maybe I should make a sign that says, "They're just words strung together!" Or that could become a new badge at the end of my posts.

Awesome. You won't regret it. I learn more from receiving and giving critiques than anything else. Of course even more important is the writing so that you can put those lessons into practice.

Yes! You mentioned a peer review group, I might have missed something, but is there a group like that available here?

Hi @freedomtowrite. Come and say hi to the crew at The Writers' Block on discord.

The short cut is peer review.

I think i'm ready to be critiqued. Thanks

I've just put my baby in the blender. I was nervous while doing it and didn't believe I mustered the courage. But it had to be done. That's how I will be able to grow and learn. Just keeping my work close, only for me to read, it's not helpful or productive. Many times I've searched the internet for tips on how to write better and it didn't help much. Finding a peer review group is a great opportunity. I'll bite my nails and accept the critique.

This takes a lot of bravery but you've made the right decision for sure. Just remember, the aim of this is to make the piece better. This is not a critique of you personally or even of you as a writer. It's just a critique of how to put those words together to get the effect you are going for. Good luck!

Loved your writing! Keep it up!

Thanks @tanyaschutte! Very much appreciated.

Zombie, you've hit the nail on the head here. The fear of criticism is so real for many people, which stops them from becoming better writers. But you're right, it's just words. And as someone who wrote reports for a living for many years, I am used to giving and receiving critical feedback on professional work. It doesn't phase me and the end result is always better. That said, I don't know if I've got to that place mentally with creative writing (not that I'm doing any anyway, so it's a moot point right now).

I hope that this post encourages more people to join TWB (or at least some other kind of peer review process), which would benefit steemit as a whole though higher quality content.