I’ve talked before about the rules of critique courtesy, but there’s a big difference between responding nicely to your critiquer and handling the critique well on an emotional level. There are also many different forms of criticism you’re bound to face throughout your life.
Everybody faces criticism, and we all know how much it can hurt. As such, our first instinct is often to ignore the criticism, let it go like water off our backs.
Sometimes this is helpful–sooner or later you’re bound to encounter unfair criticism or a critique that isn’t useful in any way–but often it’s actually counter productive. Even the harshest criticism often has a grain of truth, and if you ignore the criticism altogether, you don’t learn how to make yourself a better person or how to improve your work.
The best way to deal with criticism is to learn from it.
This is especially true when it comes to your writing, but it’s also true in every other area of your life. If several friends of yours have criticized one of your recent decisions or the way you act when you drink too much, you should probably listen, in just the same way you should listen if four people say the same thing about your story.
Learning from the experience isn’t just about fixing it or apologizing. It’s about learning how to avoid the same mistakes. It’s about using the criticism to become a better person and a better writer.
Next time you write a story, think about the critiques on your last few stories. How can you avoid getting similar comments? What can you do to improve your writing so this time you won’t have so much editing to do?
Remember that having flaws doesn’t make you a terrible person.
Nobody’s perfect. Everybody has flaws, bad habits. I suck at getting out of bed in the morning, which is why I’m so grateful to be a freelance writer–getting out of bed seems much easier in the afternoon. Many writers I know have compulsive junk food habits or drink two pots of coffee a day.
We also all make mistakes. Once in a while everybody, even the most brilliant scientists of this century, misses something that should have been obvious or says the wrong thing during a family dinner. Sometimes people make colossal mistakes that end up costing them a lot of time and money, and while that’s not fun, it doesn’t make you a terrible person. It happens to just about everybody at least once.
Your flaws just mean you have something to work on. Mistakes mean you have something to learn from.
Becoming a better person is mostly about trying to be a better person. Which means you can start right now, today. All you need to do is figure out how to make yourself a better person, which means you might want to start listening to that criticism a little more carefully.
Remember that all writers face criticism–at every point in their career.
Just like every great writer has been rejected by a publisher, every great writer has faced criticism at some point and is bound to do so again if they want to have successful careers. Realistically, almost every single person over the age of six in the modern world has faced criticism at some point. Writers just tend to face a lot more of it than average people.
To be honest, a career in writing is essentially a career in accepting criticism. Every successful writer has to work with an editor before their book can be published. Yes, even self published authors. The best self published authors hire professional editors to make sure their books are actually ready to go out into the world before it happens.
In fact, every book they write will have to be edited. If they write articles, short stories, novellas, even press releases, there’s a good chance most of those will need to be edited too. Even poetry requires a good editor.
Editing is an essential part of success in writing, which means if you want a career in writing, you’ll have to accept that you’ll be criticized every step of the way. The criticism you get from your editor might be useful and help you fix your story, but it’s still criticism, and it’s still going to hurt the first time around–especially when it comes to a novel you’ve been working on for ages.
Once you’re published, you’re left at the mercy of reviewers, and trust me, there will always be somebody out there who hates your book. If you’re lucky, they won’t be online and they won’t bother to contact you and you’ll never know. But you probably won’t be that lucky. Sooner or later you’re going to have to face up to the fact that not everybody likes your book.
This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. That’s just how it is. Some people think Twilight is the best series ever. I… don’t agree. It’s just how people are: we’re different.
So in the end, even when someone’s criticism isn’t helpful, it doesn’t matter. That’s just their opinion. Everybody has a right to an opinion, and everybody has a different opinion. You should just be happy they care enough about you and your work to have an opinion.
And remember, the best way to keep yourself from getting too bitter about one project is to start the next one.
How do you deal with criticism? Do you find it difficult to cope when you receive a particularly harsh critique? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!