All writers must at some point deal with criticism of their work. Call it constructive criticism, feedback, a critique, a review, or helpful advice, edits, it’s all the same really; the word used may just connote something a bit different or cause us to have a different emotional reaction.
Once you show your work to someone and ask them to tell you what they think (or maybe you don’t ask them what they think but they choose to tell you anyway), you have to deal with that experience in some way.
I’ve been a journalist for a long time–since high school. That means my writing has been read by editors–and edited by editors–for many years (33+). I’ve had my work published in anthologies, magazines, newsletters, and books. It’s been edited by those editors as well–and critiqued by a variety of readers.
Unless someone tells you something good about your writing, manuscript or book, their words may sound like criticism. So how do deal with that fact? How do you learn to find the actual “constructive” criticism and lose the not-so constructive criticism? And how do you get past your initial emotional reaction so you can actual accept the changes suggested so you can, in fact, improve your writing? Here are my suggestions:
- Trust your intuition. First and foremost, your gut will tell you what is right. Not your intellect. Not your ego. Your Intuition. There’s a difference. If you can’t tell the difference, you might need to ask some one to help you discern the difference. Do you know, without doubt, that what you have written is the best it can be and that the criticism you have received is off base? Or do you know that the criticism has some merit? Do you sense that you could do better, that the suggestions, if implemented, would serve your work? Or do you sense that the suggestions would change your work in a way that would harm it?
- Detach yourself from your words. When you can approach your work in an unemotional manner, you will be able to hear what is offered objectively. Then you can see the value in the changes suggested. If you remain emotional, you will just feel hurt, not-good enough, dejected–any number of negative emotions related to lack of self-worth as a writer.
- Ask trusted colleagues for perspective. If you can’t tell if the criticism or critique has value or is off base, ask those you truly trust and those you know will be honest with you to weigh in.
- Take a break. Walk away from your work, and come back in a day or two–or a week–and take another look at the suggested changes. Sometimes a little break is enough to offer you more perspective on your project and on the criticism you received. It can be easier to take in what needs to be done after a bit of distance and a second read through of the suggested edits or revisions.
- Remember everyone has their opinion. You don’t have to agree with the opinion of the person who critiqued your work. Even people who have a lot of experience as writers or in the publishing field can sometimes be wrong about a manuscript or book.
I recently had to shrug off someone’s feedback about a project of mine. At first I felt quite upset. I then used all five of these tips to pull myself together and see both the information I could use from the critique and that which I wanted to simply throw away. Let me know how these tips work for you.