How to Deal with Criticism

How to Deal with Criticism

There is a r4eal problem about being objective with this because basically all writers are needy children at heart who want someone to tell them how utterly marvelous they are all of the time, and that what they have written is possibly better than Tolstoy but with the potential to outsell J.K. Rowling. What we ant, in short, is uncritical, unconditional appeal.

But other people don't understand that. They take "Tell me what you think of it" far too literally. They don't know they are supposed to say "Darling, that was fabulous. Can't wait to read the whole thing." They are more likely to say, "Well, I don't know... it seemed a bit derivative," or "It's not the sort of thing I usually read, so..." (meaning why are you writing trash, perhaps?)

Decide if you want the truth or flannel. Sometimes the flannel is absolutely necessary and if you have someone who deals it out and you believe in its sincerity you are lucky because it will build the necessary chutzpah in you.

Self-belief is crucial. It may feel like arrogance at first, and most of us are trained to be humble. But although there must be honesty and humility in writing, there is also a stubborn self of self worth. "My words on the page are worth something and I will not be silent. No one shall silence me. I am, therefore I write." This may sound a bit lofty but I think that it is the core truth.

Being self-critical is another aspect of this. You can play that old management game if you like, imagining yourself wearing different hats as you take on different roles. If you are feeling strong you can put on the hat that says 'horrible truthful critic' and read through your stuff with a red pencil, striking out the bits that don't work for you. Or you can be your adoring uncritical relation and just read it and love it, for all its faults. The important thing is to realize that these hats must be worn at the appropriate time. The adoring relative is there when you are in the thick of it. The stern critic comes out later when you have put a little distance between you and the work (sometimes, weeks or months is not a bad idea).

Consider if and when you do give your writing to someone else to read, who is giving you the criticism that hurts. Is the person qualified to comment on your work? Where are they coming from? If you can understand their motives it will be less painful for you and more useful.
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Lilith
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