Oh jeez. Meanwhile, after all these nice encouraging memories, I'm going to backslide into cynicism. I took a writing class a few years ago, a "finish-your-novel" workshop that I hoped would force me to do just that (and it did). The teacher told me to take something out of the novel, a major character thingee; she said it was a cheap gimmick and that I had enough meat in the story without it. "You used it to get you into the relationship between the girls, and now you can get rid of it in a revision."
It was a fine note, but I disagreed with it, as did the rest of the class -- seriously, they rounded me up after class to have drinks with them and demanded that I leave that little characterization in. It was so sweet. This one woman, who had written for soap operas for years and had also worked as a customer-service rep for a hair-color company with the lead singer for Living Colour -- told me a story about a boy who was a violin prodigy. He went to play in front of a maestro, who told him "you don't have it. You don't have the fire to be a professional violinist." The prodigy realized he would never be great and gave up violin and became a successful something-or-other and lived a mild but happy life.
Years later he came across the maestro again and asked, "How did you know I didn't have the fire?" The maestro said, "I didn't. I said that to everyone, figuring that if they really did have the fire, they'd take my criticism as a challenge to prove me wrong. By giving up, you proved me right."
Jeez! Okay! Anyway, the woman's point was, don't get sidelined by criticism. Take what you think you can work with and if something does not feel right, ignore it and do what your heart tells you. (My heart pretty much always tells me I suck, though, so I'm not sure that's the best advice for moi.) I remember her eyes widening as she told me to keep writing the way I wrote, that it was great, that it spoke to her, and that it was real. So that was pretty awesome.
The un-awesome part is getting too long, and I hate long blog posts, so stay tuned.