Nobody actually enjoys criticism. Especially writers. It’s not like we sit around daydreaming about the day our carefully crafted work of art will be torn to shreds by the proverbial red pen. No, we daydream about seeing our name at the top of bestseller lists, and negotiating contracts for movie rights. We fantasize about legendary book signings complete with the need for armed security to keep the hoards of frenzied fans in check. But before any of that can happen, we have to sit in the hot seat and take our fair share of criticism.
The question is how do we take constructive criticism without using our extensive imaginations to come up with several humiliating scenarios for the person giving the critique? Including one replete with said person begging for forgiveness as we step over their cardboard house to go accept our Pulitzer. In other words how do we, as writers, receive criticism with grace?
- Show Respect–You must have some modicum of respect for the person giving the critique. My guess is that if you are showing them your work during the revising stage it is because you value their opinion. Otherwise, why bother? So since you value their opinion, you need to remain respectful when getting it. Even if you don’t agree with what they have to say. Also, respect goes both ways. No one who criticizes your work should do it in a disrespectful manner. If that happens, feel free to tell them to kiss you where the sun don’t shine. Did I just say that? I think I did.
- Take It In–Listen to what they have to say. Really soak it up before you respond, IF you respond. One of the things I love most about my writer’s group is that the person being critiqued cannot say a word while their work is being reviewed. They have to simply take in what everyone has to say. No explanations or defenses. Most of the time, I find that if I need to explain or justify something in my writing, it was poorly written in the first place. Because the final reader is not going to be able to call me up and get the 411. Really, that’s what getting a critique is all about: presenting the most polished final product possible.
- Know Your Power–Ultimately YOU have the final say in how YOU present your work. Especially if you’re an independent author. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape behind criticism you don’t agree with. It’s your world. It’s your name on the book and your butt on the line. But, keep in mind that if you’re hearing the same criticisms from more than one person, there’s more than likely some truth to it. To be successful, you need to take that into consideration.
Personally, I’m grateful for constructive criticism delivered in a respectful manner. In the end it makes me a better writer.
How do you respond to criticism?