“Truth is a torch, but a terrific one; therefore we all try to grasp it with closed eyes, fearing to be blinded.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
What is being said here is that truth, however wonderful, is not for the faint of heart. As writers, we all share our work and ask that others be honest about it. We tell them we want to know what they really think about it. But what writer really and truly embraces criticism without at least some pain?
My written works are near and dear to my heart. They are a part of me, something I have poured myself into for some lengthy period of time. They mean something to me and the hope is for them to mean something to others. So when I show them to others and ask for the truth, I do it with the small hope that the truth will be kind.
It never is. There are always mistakes that I have missed. There are things that should be changed. At first when I hear this, I feel anger. I feel slightly as if the reader is just jaded. The reader is overly critical. The reader is wrong. I protest the criticism. I deny things need to be altered even the slightest bit.
Then I take a breath. Then I take a few more breaths. I reread my work. I reread the critic’s suggestions. Then I realize much to my dismay, that many of the alterations are in fact necessary. There are problems with the content and a grammar mistake here and there. A few extra words usually find themselves surviving my delete button. All in all, I find I have overreacted and that I am in fact, wrong.
It is a hard thing to admit. Truth, raw and uncensored truth, is a hard pill to swallow. It pulls no punches. It is what it is and doesn’t care what you think. While some aspects of truth may be subjective, most are facts. Your content, what you choose your characters do or don’t do, how they do it, when they do it and to whom – those are your choices. The rules of writing in the English language, however, are not subjective.
The point in writing this post is not just to talk about truth and criticism. It is to say that anyone who does not give you the truth about your work is not doing you any favors. You, as the writer, if you ignore the light shed on your work by critics, however blinding, are not doing yourself any favors. Embrace the truth. Open your eyes and deal with the pain. You will be better for it. The light appropriate criticism (truth) sheds upon you may lead the way to something great.