You know that “C” word that makes us cringe? Yeah, that’s the one: criticism. <shudder> We writers don’t do well with it; it’s a smack to the ego and, therefore, it hurts.
Some take it in stride, others puff up and get their noses out of joint (and refuse to listen). We simply don’t want to have our work—our babies, imagination, creativity—commented upon.
As a writer, I can wholeheartedly attest to this, having been there many a time. When I first started submitting to agents and publishers many years ago, rejection after rejection flowed in. The odd unfeeling person offered harsh, unpleasant criticism … and it hurt [big-time] … and I didn’t believe it. How could someone criticize my work (talent)?
<ROTFL> A few were harsh, yes, but others were constructive. And you know? They were also right. When I un-dusted those bottom-of-the-drawer manuscripts years later, I so understood what my “criticizers” were referring to. At the time, nope, I was right; they were wrong and how dare they! Truly, if I’d listened then, I’d have improved much sooner. That’s okay though. Lesson(s) most definitely learned.
The truth is, when we start writing, we do have much to learn. We have to develop, and this only happens with time. Reality check: talent/skill isn’t there the moment we first pick up a pen, er, hit the keyboard. We can delude ourselves into believing we’re the next Hemingway, King, or Tolstoy and that’s fine for confidence boosting, not so fine for professional development.
Now, there’s bad criticism, someone blowing off steam or being cruel for the sake of it, and there’s good [constructive/helpful] criticism—someone serving to enlighten and “improve”.
If you want to be a serious long-term writer, seek criticism: join a writing community, take a workshop or seminar or three, belong to reading groups. You need to hear it and, more importantly, you need to get used to it. It will help you progress.
Recognize that views vary, particularly from your own. With time, like ducks, we can let criticism roll off our backs like water. It’s not as difficult to receive (though it may still make us cringe a little) and we begin to understand which comments we can use to our advantage.
As an FYI, when you receive a critique you disapprove of (hate, dispute), don’t argue or respond in the negative. If you have a hankering to reply, walk away, return, and then simply thank the person for his/her input or review.
Yes, the ego can be a fragile thing. But if you’re going to put your work out there, you have to cope with the “c” word. So ….
♥ Take a few deep breaths and turn away. Have a cappuccino, glass of wine, croissant, whatever brings you joy (solace). Go back later—with an open mind.
♥ Determine if there’s some truth there. Take it with a grain of salt … and have at it.
♥ Remember that writing is subjective. What you love, a person may hate. Everyone has an opinion; none are the same. So when you receive a negative feedback, acknowledge it. Different strokes for different folks: a valid cliché.
If you’ve been crushed by criticism, realize it’s merely that: a person’s subjective analysis. Take from it what you can, and move on. Understand that it doesn’t make you a bad writer—you truly do have marvelous tales to tell and share—you simply need to improve here and there. If we didn’t continually develop, we’d stagnate, never learn or grow. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, do you?
2 thoughts on “You Say Ego, I Say Ergo”
Hi. I wonder if successful authors (King, Oates, etc.) read reviews of their books. If they are confident about their abilities, maybe they don’t.
But if you don’t read reviews as a writer (no matter who you are), how can you grow or learn, or adapt/change . . . ?
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