Writerly Post Wednesday: On Receiving Criticism

“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.

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog. (Completely unrelated to this post, but pretty awesome all the same.)

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog. (Completely unrelated to this post, but pretty awesome all the same.)

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.

giphy

An accurate representation of what I used to look like when I received criticism. Okay, so maybe not.

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!

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6 thoughts on “Writerly Post Wednesday: On Receiving Criticism

  1. Great post, I agree with you. Criticism is hard to take, and my first reaction is the same – to want to disregard it. I go away and leave it for a while and return to it with a level head. Other people can point out things you don’t pick up in your writing because you are too invested in it. And most of the time, criticism will make your work a lot better.

  2. I think you have exactly the right idea. Being aware that criticism of your *writing* is not criticism of *you*, as a person, is a lesson that took me years to learn. I find it really hard to separate myself from my writing and so anything which takes it apart takes me apart, too. I really try to remember that every well-meant, constructive piece of criticism makes my work better and makes me more aware of my mistakes, but it’s not easy – and I’m still working on it! If someone reads your work and has nothing to say about it, I think it would be worse than getting it back covered with corrections and notes. At least if they’ve taken the time to comment, they’ve cared about what you’ve written.

    • Exactly! I know what you mean when you say that not receiving any feedback is worse–because then you start to think that it’s not even worth correcting, Thanks for the comment! (:

  3. I totally understand your struggle! I AM SO THE SAME. I want criticism, but at the same time, my first thoughts are always, “Well, they don’t really know what they’re talking about.” I think it’s definitely a maturity thing, as a writer, to learn to accept criticism fully. I still struggle, and I’ve been taking it for 5 years. I kind of don’t know how I feel about the whole “they’re not criticising you, they’re criticising your writing” adage. I know everyone says it! Buuut, to me, my writing IS me, so yes it does feel like a criticism. Hehe, I spelt “criticism” wrong EVERY. SINGLE. TIME in this comment. Thank goodness for spell check. XD

    • Lol criticism is a hard word to spell! I can’t spell it either. I just wrote it once, corrected it, then copied and pasted it every time I needed it. :D

      Yeah, it’s hard. While I’m better at accepting criticism, I still have to remind myself to separate myself from my writing. I totally understand what you mean. I think that personally, criticism is always going to be a bit of a struggle, though it’ll never put me off from writing.

      Thanks for commenting–I really appreciate it. It’s great to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter. (:

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