Last summer I sat nervously in a room with four other writers. It was my second time meeting them, and in moments I would be called on to read what I prepared and hear their feedback.
Feelings of nervousness and fear filled my thoughts as I waited my turn. But no matter how I felt, I was determined to put myself out there and allow others to speak into my writing, my work.
The time came and I was asked to go first. At least I don’t have to be nervous all night, I thought to myself.
I passed out copies and forged ahead. I read (probably too fast) through the page and a half of words I stayed up late the night before writing. Insecure with what I originally wanted to take, I decided last minute to write something new.
Now here I was reading new words out loud in front of a group of writers. A first for me in so many ways.
When I finished they didn’t stand up and cheer. They didn’t praise every word and encourage me to take it to a publisher.
But neither did they rip it apart and tell me to forget about a career in writing.
They told me their honest thoughts in a gracious way. They told me the good parts and the not so good parts. I left that night encouraged and supported, and thankful to have found this group of writers.
I participated in that critique group throughout the summer, but September came (and Lily started school) and our new schedule kept me from attending.
I felt disappointed I couldn’t make it work, but then something happened.
Without realizing it, someone else came into my life. Someone who took a vested interest in my writing.
She has spent time probing me, asking me good questions, and pulling things out of me that help me answer the big question, “why?”. She critiques and edits my work with great feedback (not just an “it’s good” response).
Getting solid feedback on my writing has been crucial for me and one of the big factors that keeps me going. It’s given me clarity when I’m confused, encouraged me when I’m struggling, and brought confidence when I’m on the fence.
Critique isn’t easy and doesn’t always feel good, but I’m learning, it’s invaluable to a writers life.