Reading through a critique can be hard. I know. It’s hard for me, too!
You’ve worked months, maybe years, on a piece of writing you love, and hearing it needs improvement might be painful. I’m excited every time my editor sends along a critique letter, but I’m also nervous. She points out parts of the story I’ve already sensed might need to be changed and things I had no idea weren’t working. Sometimes I laugh out loud, realizing what she’s taken from my writing doesn’t match up at all with what I thought I’d communicated. By the time I’m two-thirds through the letter, my mind has shut down. It’s just too much information to take in all at once.
There are familiar feelings I go through, too. Embarrassment is a typical one. I sometimes feel like all my weaknesses have been exposed — weaknesses I knew I had and some I had no idea about! Overwhelm is another. Now that I see just how much work the story needs, how in the world am I to do it? Why doesn’t the letter also come with a magic wand?
After my first read through, I set the letter aside. I usually take the dog for a walk and let my thoughts both wander and rest. As I go throughout the day, I don’t actively work on the suggestions I’ve read, but I’m processing them just the same. By the time I come back to the letter the next day, I realize I’ve internalized some of the recommendations. They no longer feel new and surprising. Even if I don’t know how to fix things yet, my editor’s advice is starting to make sense.
Entrusting your work to someone else is both risky and brave. I hope you’ll be able to see a critique in the light it was written — not as a malicious attempt to make you look bad, but as an effort to help you improve your work. And remember: what you’re reading is one person’s opinion. As the writer, you always get the final say.