This is a weird post for me to write. I've tried several times and failed because I sounded like a speshul snowflake. So if you start reading and think I'm being a speshul snowflake, I'm not--really, I'm not. I have a point, I swear, and it's not to be a speshul snowflake.
So, taking critiques well. Easy to say, hard to do. I don't know if anyone can do it truly objectively, but I know we all try our best because we want to improve as writers and we want our craft to be the best it can be. I don't know anybody who WANTS to send out less than their best work.
There's a lot of stuff online about how to take a critique, what a good critique is, etc. etc. This isn't one of those posts, exactly. It's a look at another bad way to take a critique, but one you might not realize you're doing because it's easy to think you're taking the critique well.
I'll tell you a story to explain what I mean. When I was first starting to write with the actual intention of publication, I knew I needed other people to look at my work. I found a few critique partners online and within my friends, and I sent out some work. One critique partner was tough--she left me a LOT of notes in the margins and even more red on the manuscript text itself.
Without really thinking about it, I assumed she knew better than me and made almost every change she suggested.
I shouldn't have. (THIS IS NOT THE SPESHUL SNOWFLAKE MOMENT IT LOOKS LIKE, I SWEAR.)
Here is WHY I shouldn't have: because I had another friend read the chapters after that, and she picked out a bunch of places she said didn't sound like my writing at all.
What I did right: understanding that my sentences, plot, characters, etc. weren't perfect. Understanding that I needed to learn more about craft, to fix up shabby parts of my manuscript, and smooth out my writing.
What I did WRONG: letting someone else do it FOR me by rewriting my sentences instead of LEARNING to do it myself.
Here's the thing: I wasn't doing myself any favors by just assuming someone else knew more about writing than I did--even if that was true--TO THE POINT that I stopped thinking about how I as a writer would do things. The minute I stopped trying to LEARN from the changes and just started taking them because I didn't know what I was doing was a real rookie mistake--way more than just being a bad writer ever could be. I sat there thinking I was taking that critique like a champ, because I wasn't hanging onto my own bad writing and was more than willing to make changes to my novel. What I SHOULD have done is look at each change and think about why that critique partner suggested it. So I could understand what was awkward about that particular moment and try to do it better next time.
So that's what I mean by taking a critique as YOURSELF. The most insightful critique in the world won't help you improve as a writer if you do not approach it as YOU THE WRITER, and take it as a learning tool rather than a coat of paint on an awkward sentence. I know people have said this before, but I think it's worth repeating. You ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS want to learn from critique notes, not just use them in the specific instances to which they're applied. And even if someone writes better than you, you always always always ALWAYS want to sound like YOU. Just a better, more polished version of you.
There, that's my two cents on the subject. Because I think taking a critique like a champ is way more than just avoiding speshul snowflake moments. :)
And really, reading critiques as ways to learn rather than as all the ways you screwed up (which, I know, it can feel that way sometimes) seems a little easier, no?