Criticism is very hard to deal with and yet it is an inevitable part of life. In particular, it is an inevitable part of a writer’s life. You are constantly putting yourself out there. When people love your work it is the best feeling in the world, when they don’t it really hurts. People have their own reasons for giving criticism, good and bad, but sometimes it can come in a package that is really hard to deal with and very easy to take to heart. I honestly believe there are many good writers out there who never meet their potential because they haven’t managed to come to terms with criticism. The result being that harsh words have crippled them, making them unable to write anymore. I would urge people who are asked to (or choose to) comment on other people’s work to remember this. We all need time to learn. No one is born a perfect writer; it’s a skill that must be learnt. So please tread lightly, treat others carefully if you can.
So in an effort to right some wrongs here is my four step plan to emerging from criticism better than you went in:
Or shout, or drink, or go for a run: whatever works for you to let off steam. I’m a sensitive soul so I have a big old cry. I love writing so criticism of my work really hurts. When it’s very harsh I need to grieve it to be able to really get over it. I need to allow myself to feel how crap it is to be told I haven’t done as well as I hoped. I give myself one night to feel sad and then…
2. Get over it
The next morning I turn to my most treasured motto: ‘Criticism is Free Advice.’ The person who said those things to you has done you an enormous favour, even if they didn’t mean to. Because usually there is some truth in there (and sometimes a lot of rubbish too. I must stress this – PEOPLE CAN BE WRONG!!) If you can identify that gem of truth in what they have said and use it to your advantage then you will be better at doing the thing that you love. What could be greater than that?
3. Be Humble
The best way to be in the face of criticism is utterly sweet. That’s why I wait till the next day to respond to any negative comments. By then I am calm and over the initial upset. I can be oh-so-kind and oh-so-very-lovely to that person. You leave the good impression, you take the higher ground, you are the professional, you are the kind hearted human being!
4. Move On
I spent a year being criticised fairly heavily (in a very fair way and very useful way I must add!) by my writing tutor and I finished the year wining an award. That’s how it goes. So whatever it is you are doing, chin up and keep going (And I’m saying that to me as much as to you!)