You know that one Seinfeld episode where Elaine is thrilled to be called “breathtaking” by a potential suitor, only to discover that he applies that word to literally everything? No one wants to be categorized with scrambled eggs and an ugly baby, but saying so makes you the asshole. You’ve seen that one episode, right?
That’s how I feel about my writing class.
It’s not that I think I’m the hottest shit around. But it’s hard to trust any critique when every. single. story is brilliant and amazing and a paragon of its genre. It’s hard to trust the eye of someone who has not proven any discernment whatsoever. I mean, I get it. We’re all terrified to be the class asshole. Better to keep criticisms light and praise flowing, lest your victims return the favor when it’s your turn. But there has got to be a middle ground between “this is perfect and you are a god” and “who told you you could write?”
And even if the story is brilliant – what makes it so? What does it stir? Where does the passion hit you? It’s the same failure mode as “everyone is beautiful” rhetoric: when everyone is beautiful, then by god no one is.
I’m leading the charge toward more exacting adjectives. Tell me my work is transcendent and chilling and it hits you somewhere so painfully atavistic you need to lie down for a while. Or tell me it’s maudlin and derivative and you need to go lie down for a different reason. Either way. Your perspective is valid. Articulate it.