I can remember back to a creative writing class I took in college. It was the first round-table discussion writing class I ever took, and had I known ahead of time that each one of my classmates would read and critique my work each time an assignment was due, I probably would have never signed up in the first place.
See, I was comfortable writing for the eyes of my teachers only. Comfortable with the fact that the only one to critique me (besides myself) was the person instructing and giving out the writing assignments. That I could handle. But the judgmental verdicts of a class full of kids my age? It was a death sentence. And honestly, I was right. When it came time for the first round of peer reviews, my work was grilled…and not just grilled, but skewered and roasted to a slow and painful death.
Ok, so it wasn’t really that bad. It was sorely uncomfortable…but in a good way. Kind of like when your dad takes the training wheels off of your bike and gives you the first push into the world of two-wheel freedom. Surprisingly, the peer review opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding my talent for words. Not only did I get feedback from others with my same talent, I also learned from reading their work.
It was a whole new world of varying styles and techniques – a hearty stew of words for me to feed on. So, instead of writhing in agony every time someone made comments or corrections to my work, I learned to absorb the good stuff and throw out the bad. I learned that styles that work well for some writers don’t necessarily work well for me…and that was ok because I was still learning. Learning that my writing weaknesses could be strengthened by someone else critiquing my work. Learning that someone else’s work could be strengthened by me.
It was (and still is) a simple give and take that is one of the most rewarding experiences in the writing profession. So if you’re not in the practice of having others review your work, dive right in. Join a writing group or have a trusted mentor look over your work. Any way you go about it, keep an open mind and allow someone else the opportunity to help your writing flourish. You’ll be amazed.
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