At present, I'm in an Intro to Short Story class, and it's become one of my favorites this semester. One of the best aspects of the class is critique workshops. Every few weeks, we write a short story. Everyone reads each other's stories and we go over about four at a time. Now, regardless of the general apathy of most of my peers in respect to actually reading the stories, critique workshops have been the most enlightening part of the class. This is for one simple reason: we cannot talk while our work is critiqued.

It seems impossible to sit there while people discuss your work, whether you want to thank them for praise or defend your decisions against criticism. But nevertheless, whoever is being critiqued must keep silent while the rest of the class discusses. Any attempts to fight this and speak out is met with immediate shushing from the professor and students alike. One of the most entertaining parts of the process is hearing others attempt to explain parts of the work to people who may be confused. Still, despite it's challenges, the process itself is very rewarding.

Why are we not allowed to respond to feedback? And what could possibly be so uplifting about listening to people say whatever they want about your work? The idea that my professor has reinforced is that staying silent in receiving feedback is the perfect analogy for the real world. When your work is published, people can and will say anything they want to about your work. They'll interpret it and explain it and describe it and enjoy it and deride it as they see fit. You can't do anything once your work is in the hands of a reader. You really just have to hope for the best. 

Silent critique gives the author the opportunity to hear people's opinion of a work before it hits that state of public permanence. Confusion and questions enlighten you to how a work may be received, explained, and even taught. Its use in a classroom is both a chance to correct problems found by readers and to practice accepting inevitable critique in silence. As a writer, criticism is one of the most powerful tools for growing your writing ability. Adding silence to criticism teaches both how to grow from it and how to accept it with grace.

Published by Jayda Louise