Last night I went to Harvard Square for my writers' group. It meets in the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and consists of myself and about seven other writers.
Last night we were workshopping my piece. I know I've never taken criticism well, until a couple of years ago my innate reaction to the constructive sort being some bipolar combination of "Fuck you, man, you just don't understand what I'm trying to do!" and "I suck. Everyone hates my work and by extension, me."
But in the last year or two, I've decided that criticism is important and I should seek it out in hopes of making what I do better. I try to go in with an open mind, understanding that not everyone's tastes and proclivites are the same, and that just because my work doesn't spew out of my fingers as fully and perfectly formed (and armored) as Athena from out of Zeus's head, that doesn't mean I'll never be a good writer. I also remind myself that one can find fault in every single great work of literature if one is so inclined.
That being said, any negative criticism is discouraging. Whether you agree or don't agree with it, it can't help but knock you back a little bit. Writing a novel is big and hard. The idea that you've worked for months on this thing, and now you've got to go back and do it over again is so daunting and hopeless. I swear I could feel my heart dropping a few inches in my chest as I left the room.
On the other hand, it's frustrating when someone criticises your work when he has clearly not read it well, and also when a person who has never written a long work picks apart a chapter from a novel as if it were a short story. Or when male writers are incapable of reading a female character as indivually and complexly as they would a male character. "Look, I just think a hot girl wouldn't do this. Hot girls do this." Yes. Well. I actually happen to be one of these "girl" things you're talking about, and I'm here to tell you that sometimes different people are different. Yes, even if they have vaginas.
But I'm being negative. A lot of the criticism I recieved was very positive and/or very helpful. I plan on putting it to good use.
After my group, I tried to find Squawk Coffee House, but no one I talked to knew where it was. When I got home, I found out that Squawk Coffee House only exists on Thursday nights, and is actually held in the Harvard Epworth Methodist Church. Who knew. I'll probably try to go again next week. Instead, Thade and I ate pizza and drank cheap beer in the Garage before heading back to Brighton. All in all, not a bad night.