Last week, writer Kim Bullock wrote a post about how writers should take critique like dancers take critique: as a necessary, even welcome step up the ladder of success.
And it’s absolutely true.
As a teenager, I myself was a serious ballet dancer, topping off schoolwork with three hours or more of dance class a day, six days a week. And, like Kim says, “Teachers don’t waste time giving corrections to dancers in whom they see no potential.”
I was poked, I was prodded. My turnout was toed further out, the flesh on my rear was pinched. My shoulders were hitched back, my head was cocked just so. Which meant I was one of the lucky ones; the chubbier girls, the girls who only came a few times a week, the girls whose feet sickled, barely received corrections at all.
So why, now that I’m a writer, do I expect to be considered fabulous right off the bat? Why, when the “constructive” criticism comes, do defensive thoughts immediately spring to mind: but I’ll be getting to that…, but I don’t think she’d be…, but no, you don’t understand.…
I may have huffed internally at my dance teacher, but I never pushed back. She had been a principal dancer. She had reams of experience. She would know.
So now that I’m approaching my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I’ll have to keep that dancer mindset in mind. For a few years, I’ll be bombarded with critiques—and will have to fight hard to remember that’s what I signed up for. I didn’t sign up to be praised. I signed up to improve.
Like a dancer without a mirror, in writing it’s too easy to overlook your faults. It feels amazing, so it must look amazing. It feels off, but you have no idea how to correct it. In cases like this, that outside perspective is vital.
Although I like to joke I’m perfect, I’ll have to remind myself I’m not—and that the criticism I cringe away from is actually a praise of its own. For if I were that far off, no one would bother saying a damn thing.
How do you feel about feedback on your writing?