Just Take It: Learning to Live with Criticism

Posted on September 24, 2014


Designers’ discussion

It’s in us all, I believe, to be protective of our creative work. After all, we put so much care and effort in to forming just the right sentences and just the right tone. So, naturally, our first reaction to criticism is often immediate defensiveness. And especially if you’ve worked very hard to find the perfect words, you’re already sensitive to what you may perceive as weaknesses in your own work. If this is our stance – defensive and sensitive – it can be really, really hard to take criticism well. Not only do we find ourselves feeling crushed and angry at this point, we miss the glaringly obvious point: criticism is supposed to be helpful.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all need total personality overhauls to enable us to take criticism well. However, I am suggesting that criticism is much easier to take when we view it as guidance or encouragement.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when reading others’ critiques of your work:

  1. Is this helpful?

A good critique is helpful to you. The best criticism gives advice as to what to do better, what to add or subtract to improve the work as a whole. It’s quite unhelpful to receive a comment like, “I don’t like that,” or “this wording is weird” without receiving an explanation as to why or how one might make changes for the better.

  1. Do I understand the critic’s point of view?

A critique may simply be a point of miscommunication. Your critic may have missed a detail in your story line or gotten characters confused. Each person will read your story differently, so it’s important that you learn to maintain some distance from your work, realizing that not everyone knows your work as intimately as you do. It’s also important to try to understand the critic’s point of view because this is your potential reader’s point of view. If something isn’t clear to your critic, it might be a point of confusion for your readers as well.

  1. How serious should I take this advice?

If you find the critique helpful, by all means, apply the suggested changes to your work. Your writing will be better for it. If your critic points out inconsistencies in the plot that need addressing, pay attention. Some criticism, however, you may be able to put on the back burner or just ignore all together. When it comes to people’s opinions as to your style or word choice, sometimes you have to stick to your guns and defend your own decisions. But don’t hang on to your own ideas out of pride; recognize when criticism is necessary and helpful and when it is simply a matter of opinion.

We all want to be better writers; we want our stories to flow, to be engaging, interesting, and surprising. However, we must also acknowledge that we all need some guidance from time to time.

If we can acknowledge that our work has faults and be open to change, it makes it much easier to hear the criticism of others. Unfortunately, some people are mean and unhelpful in their comments, but those are the comments you can ignore. Learn to differentiate between the good advice and the bad by asking yourself, “Is this helpful?” because that is the point of good criticism, to ultimately encourage you on to better writing.

Eithne Amos, Writer/Editor, Asta Publications, LLC


Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.



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