Some writing programs have a reputation for being cutthroat and competitive. I haven’t participated in any other MFA programs, so I can’t speak from experience, but I have been in critiques that didn’t feel safe, where it felt like people don’t want you to do well.
When I went to the Words After War Writing Intensive at Marlboro College, it was in those critiques, under the advisement of an incredibly gifted professor, writer, and person, John Sheehy, where I discovered what I find most valuable in a critique. For me, the best critiques I’ve been in include writers and writing in all stages of development. I have learned much from both the most and least experienced writers, and the most and least polished pieces of work.
I want a critique of my work to be honest, and delivered in such a way that I believe the person has my best interest in mind. I want to deliver criticism to others in this fashion. I want there to be a spirit of love in a critique. Love! There, I said it.
I’m going to embrace that. I know I won’t always find it, but I’m going to strive to find those places where love guides our creative voices. I never knew I loved criticisms (when delivered in an honest and loving way).