Would you continue to meet regularly with a group of people who criticized your work and pointed out flaws in your thinking, then told you how to improve?
When I first visited a local critique group, it was in the back room of a restaurant under dim lighting (great for romantic conversations but lousy for reading manuscripts). We spent two hours debating the merits and flaws of people and circumstances that existed only in our imaginations. The lighting, the “unreal” subject matter, and the sincere intensity of the discussion made it a rather surreal scene in my mind.
Three and a half years later, I still meet with this critique group twice a month. Some of the members have changed, as has the meeting place, but I’ve learned to trust what these people tell me about my writing. We rarely see each other or communicate outside of these meetings. But when these friends, along with a few others, tell me something is wrong with what I’ve written, I pay attention and consider what they say.
Occasionally, their words sting. I may drive home with tears in my eyes, determined to throw the manuscript in the garbage and take up Chinese instead. That must be easier than writing a novel. But I don’t throw it away. I let their suggestions roll around in my thoughts for a few days until they begin to make sense.
Few people in my life have earned such a privilege of pointing out where I’ve made a mistake, where I’m not measuring up, where I need to change or improve. They speak truth, so I listen.
How I wish I had a critique group for other areas of my life. Would I have listened if a friend told me an attitude change on my part would improve my marriage? Would a tough decision be easier to make having a critique group to hash out the pros and cons and debate the consequences? What about family crises? Imagine a committee that would examine the issues, point out the errors, and suggest changes in behavior and thoughts.
I doubt the idea will catch on. It’s too humbling. Even the kindest critique group, if honest, will strip away any prideful thoughts of self-perfection. Not many of us are willing to submit to that kind of examination. But as I look back over my life, there are times I sure wish I’d had a critique group around to point out errors, speak truth, and tell me how to improve my life story.
Was there a time in your life when a critique might have been, well…maybe not welcome, but at least helpful?