News flash, right?
Most of the time, I don’t believe in the concept of perfect. A perfectly-prepared meal, perfectly-written paper, perfect performance. You get the idea. Theologically–if you lean that way–perfection is generally unattainable in this life. If you swing atheist… well, I don’t actually know what you’d have to say about it. But I think you’d at least agree that people aren’t perfect.
We know this. Right? This isn’t a news flash, is it? So, then why is it so difficult to accept criticism? I’m usually pretty good at taking criticism, whether I deserve it or not. Film school pretty much functioned on the assumption that if you were there, you were open to others’ opinions. I guess I’m pretty expressionless, because it seems a lot of people thought I didn’t care for their opinions or intended to ignore them, neither of which was true. I listen very carefully to critiques. Whether I agree with them or not, it’s always important to understand why someone thinks a portion (or all) of my work could be better.
As I said, no one’s perfect, and we don’t produce perfection. For a writer, this is just part of the process. First draft, second draft… the idea of a final draft is more wishful thinking than a goal, I think. We all know, that draft will never really be finished. There’s always tinkering to be done.
I remember one particular incident. I was reading from my thesis before the entire department faculty–or, at least, those who had decided to show up. And several of my peers. Afterward, everyone got to speak their mind. I can’t remember what the process was called, but I think the word “trial” was in there somewhere, or should have been. One of my professors–he shall remain nameless–gave me very on-point feedback. I nodded politely and listened. At some point, he stopped, laughed, and accused me of, well, of preparing to ignore it. Not true, but my thesis committee and I fought extensively when it came to my script.
It wasn’t an isolated incident. But I think at some point, we all feel the urge to defend our work. Just because I disagree with your opinion, it doesn’t mean I’ve ignored your opinion. It just means that I’m not you, my work isn’t your work, it’s my responsibility and not yours. My name goes on it, so I must be comfortable and confident of the final (using that word loosely) product. I guess people feel they need to defend their opinions sometimes, too, and that’s where conflict can start. I’m part of a fantastic writer’s group. A lot of talent. Great writers and storytellers… and perhaps, great egos to go with it. Sometimes we’re eager to get our work torn to shreds, already judging it poorly for ourselves. And other times, well, don’t even think about poking at this piece of dialogue or character choice. It can get tense, but I think we all come out better for it.
I may have mentioned it before, but sometimes this fear of criticism–from others or from yourself–can get in the way. If you’re a perfectionist like me (yes, I’m laughing at the irony, too) you want it to be just right before committing to it, as if you can pen it inside your head first, then quickly scrawl it down on the page. Maybe it works that way for some people. It doesn’t for me. My brain just doesn’t have the processing power to actually write a book, word for word, in my head. At first, I worried it would be the same with my blog. I would need feedback before posting it, I would have to do second and third drafts, polishes, proofs (well, maybe that, at least), and so on before I could publish it. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I write, I proof, I publish. No one sees this until it’s up. I don’t even look at it again until it’s up. Writing hasn’t been this organic for me since… I can’t remember. Grade school? Junior high? It’s strange and innocent and fresh and terrifying, and I wonder what my fiction would look like if I could ever apply this same fearlessness there.
Well. Whatever it would be, it still wouldn’t be perfect. 🙂