Faye Rapaport DesPres, today's guest blogger, shares thoughts on dealing with critiques.
I think you have to find the right middle-ground between being confident in your own work, style, and ideas, and being open to constructive critique.
Early on, it's good to drink in all of the critique with an open mind (and without taking it personally), especially from more experienced writers. Accept and work with what feels right to you, and let go of what doesn't. There is no "right" or "wrong," because readers and writers have different tastes or sensibilities. But if your teachers or readers are finding and pointing out similar issues in your work, it's a good idea to pay attention to what they're saying.
It takes time, but eventually you will find that there are certain aspects of your writing, or a of a particular story or essay or poem, that you simply can't or don't want to change because those words or sentences or structures feel right to you, and you have good, solid reasons for sticking with what you have. At the same time, you will know in your heart when someone is pointing out something that could be improved in your text. In those cases, for me, it's best to be open to hearing it, and to think of it as a gift. Generous teachers and readers want your text to be as good as you want it to be.
Comment from Dixon: Great advice. I belong to a wonderful critique group and get pretty good feedback from the members. However, there's sometimes one or two who want to write my book for me. Until I reach those magic words "The End" even I don't know which scenes and characters are going to survive. So I'm very open to advice on logical inconsistencies, bad grammar or spellings, lazy language and so on, and pay not so much attention to critiquers who seem to have a different vision for the book as a whole.
If one person has a problem with a certain aspect of my writing, I take that with a grain of salt. Maybe she's just having a bad hair day. But if I hear the same criticism for several members, then I know there's a problem I need to deal with.