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Friday, May 28, 2010

Receiving Criticism: A Personal Story

I got a direct shot-in-the-heart kind of critique last night. Floundering with a piece of work I’ve been laboring over for years now, I submitted yet another section of it to my writing group. The piece is lacking conflict. CONFLICT! This absence of conflict stops me everything I get into a good rhythmic flow in my work. I fill my head with self-cursing babble and repetitive litanies that damn and condemn my inability to create a CONFLICT for my characters to solve. Resolved to being a loser then, I eventually put my work on a shelf and write other things instead.

Of course, it doesn’t go away; relentless visions have their way and once again, I pull it out to write some more. Before long though, my own conflict wrecks havoc on my psyche and I crumble under the weight of self-loathing.

I have been encouraged by my writing group to silence the voices in my head and keep the work out on my desk. I am trying. Still, the word CONFLICT won’t go away. It trips me and captures me and wrestles me down like a violent assault. I am not a battler; I will recede every time.

But tonight I got a different message: I have to stand up and fight one battle or another. I can fight the word CONFLICT or I can fight the internal condemnation. There is no other choice. Either way, I cannot retreat from one battle or another.

Linda’s critique was soft: she read to me from a book titled Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton.

“The trick with this kind of structure [collage structure]is that each of the

shimmering Images has to explore some shared larger topic…

What happens with this collage approach is that the whole collection of little stories,

their flow, and the unspoken but implied juxtapositions and connections within that flow

take the readers to a place of greater understanding in the end.

You don’t have to tell readers what you want them to ‘get’ about your life experience.

You just show them a bunch of Shimmering Images, like a slide show of pictures”

- - Lisa Dale Norton

Sherita’s critique was a blunt-force blow like a wrestling coach throwing me back into the ring. After a tirade listing a string of conflict options, she concluded with a climax to her passion-filled voice, “it doesn’t matter! Just do it, damn it!!” We all laughed, but I felt a shift in my brain as I saw the villain in my head put down his megaphone.

“OK!” I said. And I meant it.

Thank you, writers, Thank You!

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