This week at my writing critique group, it will be my turn to read. I'll bring copies for everyone in the group and they'll read silently while I read about 10 pages of my manuscript aloud. A few minutes are given for the critiquers to compose their thoughts. Then, in a sort of roundtable discussion, they offer constructive criticism on everything from punctuation to character development, from awkward phrases to slips in point of view.
My critique group is kind in delivering their ideas and criticisms to me, so it (usually) doesn't feel like a massacre by hungry wolves. But even gentle criticism can be hard to take, and I am learning to be brave. I try to listen to criticisms and think about them, let them roll around in my mind for a while and see whether or not they have merit. I don't make every change someone suggests; that would be writing a book by committee and that is not my intent. But my fellow readers and writers have shared with me wonderful ways to strengthen my work by pointing out inconsistencies and awkwardness that I was too close to see. I have learned to trust the path of struggling through critiques as much as I trust my own path of struggling through writing.