How to Handle Criticism in Writing

C-R-I-T-I-C-I-S-M

The very word is a frightful thing to look at.

For many people, experiencing criticism brings out those gut-wrenching, anxious, and often times discouraging feelings that make you wonder why you even wrote your story, poem, essay, etc. in the first place, especially when it’s a work you feel particularly passionate about.  It’s your precious – how dare someone criticize it?!

Yet, it’s something that none of us can escape.  Criticism plays a vital role in the journey of becoming a better writer, whether you’re terrified of it or can’t get enough. For those who feel the former towards receiving criticism, here are some tips on how to handle criticism:

 

1)  Detach yourself

Or in other words, don’t take criticism personally.  Chances are, the person who is criticizing your work (take note: your work not you!) is doing it in a professional manner – personally attacking or deliberately insulting you should not be an idea that occurs.

Realize that the person who is criticizing your work won’t see you as inferior after they finish.  They are doing it to ultimately make you more aware of what you need to work on as a writer.  Remind yourself that your writing background does not wholly represent who you are.  Who you are is every part of you, not just your writing background.  

2)  Be open to change

Pride can be our biggest downfall.  It absolutely will not matter how many criticisms you get in your life; if you are not willing to change anything that is commented upon, you will never become a better writer.  It can be hard when you feel very confident about your piece at first, but what is seen from an outsider’s perspective can be totally different from how you imagined your story to go.  So you must be open-minded and ready to improve upon your writing  if you want to start the journey to becoming a better writer.  

3)  Don’t just “take it”

I remember that whenever I received criticism for my work, I used to just sit there and nod my head in silence to everything they would say. I would tell them I’d definitely improve my paper, say my thanks, then leave.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Question everything”? This phrase also applies to receiving criticism. Ask questions. Implore how or why the individual got to this criticism. If they say “your characters are flat, your plot is too straight-forward, the ending is too abrupt,” ask them what exactly they mean by that by saying, “What strategies can I employ as a writer to improve on those aspects?” And if there is something that you cannot seem to agree on with the person who is criticizing your work, then that’s okay. Don’t always take criticism as the “truth.” Overall, it should be a conversation – not just something you sit and take.

4)  Be thankful

As weird as it seems, be appreciative of the person who is criticizing your work (unless they’re a downright a**hole). They’re taking time to look over your paper, and most importantly, they are giving you substantive criticism that can only help you – if you decide to work on it.  Don’t walk away sour-faced with a new found hatred of that person; walk away with the knowledge that there is always room for improvement and that they are there to help you.  None of us are perfect.

5) Remember: You’re not the only one

Even the most famous of authors, playwrights, poets, etc. have received criticism. Feeling passionate about your work, then witnessing it being “taken apart” is something we all have to live with. It happens, it’s extremely common, and with these tips, receiving criticism can become something much more valuable and embraced.

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