“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” ― Winston Churchill.
Criticism is a necessary part of being a writer. Let’s face it — none of us want it. In the perfect world, our novels are perfect, there are no plot holes, and everything is ready and shiny and brilliant. But wait a moment. This isn’t that world. Our novels are flawed, plot holes gaping so wide you’re worried you might actually fall into them. There are weird typos, run on sentence, unnecessary scenes, and god-knows what else.
The most important thing I’ve come to learn as a writer is this: it’s completely okay if your draft if flawed. I am a perfectionist — and when I first started to write and upload my work online, it scared the heck out of me. Was I a good writer? Would other people like my writing? What if it was truly horrendous? I’d tap my feet anxiously and stare at my inbox to see if anyone had commented on it. The strange thing is this: Yes, I was scared on criticism and negative feedback, but I also wanted it. I wanted (and still do) to improve, to point out my faults as a writer, as much as I can because I’ve come to realize that every piece of criticism — whether it be someone’s opinion, or a reader pointing out a typo or grammar error — is valuable.
I learned not to take it personally. They’re criticizing your writing — and while many hours of frustration and effort have been poured into your work and it does sting a bit — they’re not criticizing you. Someone says your story isn’t their cup of tea? Learn to accept that not everyone’s going to like your writing. Think about the books you’ve read: have you liked them all? Nope, I’m sure you haven’t. I certainly haven’t, anyway. Every person is different — with different experiences, likes and dislikes, and personal preferences in genres and writing style.
Let the criticism sit for a while. A few hours, a day, maybe longer if you want; whatever suits you. My first reaction — call it a defense mechanism if you will — is to disregard it. To assume that the critiquer doesn’t know what they’re talking about and get on with my writing life. But if I did that, what would be the point of criticism in the first place if I wasn’t going to listen to it? None, of course. So that’s why I — personally — need to make some space between me and criticism. I find it always helps. And then I take a second look at it. I read through it carefully (whether it be a short comment or a full-on review) and sometimes even take notes or highlight things that I know I really need to focus on/fix.
At the end of the day — if you want to improve your writing, learning to receive criticism politely is a must.
What are your thoughts on criticism? Let me know in the comments below!