It’s in all of us to be protective of our creative works. After all, we put so much care and effort into forming the right sentences and tone. Naturally, our first reaction to criticism is often defensiveness. If you’ve worked painstakingly to find the perfect words, you’re sensitive to what others perceive as weakness in your work. If this is our stance, it can be really, really hard to take criticism. Not only do we find ourselves feeling crushed and angry, we miss the glaringly obvious point: criticism is supposed to be helpful.
Now, I’m not suggesting we all need personality overhauls to enable us to take criticism well. 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:
- Is this helpful?
A good critique is helpful to you. The best criticism gives advice about 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 or a suggestion about how one might make changes for the better.
- Do I understand the critic’s point of view?
Your problem with criticism may simply be due to miscommunication. Your critic may have missed a detail in your storyline or gotten characters confused. Each person will read your story differently, so it’s important 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 confusing for your readers as well.
- How seriously should I take this advice?
If you find the criticism 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 backburner or ignore altogether. When it comes to people’s opinions about your style or word choices, sometimes you have to stick to your guns and defend your decisions. But don’t hang onto 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 smoothly and to be engaging and surprising. But we must acknowledge that we all need guidance from time to time.
If we can acknowledge that our work has faults and be open to change, it will be much easier to hear the criticism of others. Some people are mean and unhelpful in their comments, unfortunately, but those are the ones you can ignore. Learn to differentiate between good and bad advice by asking yourself, “Is this helpful?” Remember that the point of good criticism is to encourage you to better your writing.
Eithne Amos, Writer and Editor, Asta Publications
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.