Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Making Love to Criticism

 Criticism gets a bad rap. We cringe at it, getting mad at the messenger, wondering if the other person is nasty or has ulterior motives in telling us our writing isn't worthy yet. However, what's much, much worse is being ignored.

What makes you madder . . . being rejected or being ignored?

We need that attention. Even if it's a form letter, we want to be acknowledged. So why don't we see criticism in the same light?

Picture criticism as a joy . . . as a wonderful gift. Envision it as something you cherish, collect, hold dear. Embrace it. With criticism comes attention. Someone actually cares. After all, they wouldn't answer back if they didn't care in some manner or another. Actually, the more criticism you receive, the more you ought to feel loved. It's feedback that helps you grow. It's nurturing. It's educational. It's a tool to make you a much better writer.

If someone didn't care, they wouldn't respond at all.

When you criticize someone else's writing, you are feeding them, encouraging them. Even if all you have to say is negative, you are giving that person direction on what works and what doesn't. Add in any type of positive remark and you'll catapult that writer to a new level.

As a writer asking for criticism, which you do every single time you put your work in someone else's hands, stand up and take it, because it can only make you stronger. 

So, next time you have the opportunity to experience criticism, do this:


As the recipient, do not argue. Listen, be open minded, decide you'll take all the comments, good and bad, and let them ferment for a day or two before acting on them. Responding with explanation is in no way justified. Your writing should speak for itself and the critiquer is entitled to his opinion. Just take it and hush. Sift out what you'll keep later, and be happy that someone took the time to review your work. One and two star reviews might feel harsh, but once you quit crying about them, you might glean a nugget of advice worth taking.

As the deliverer, be honest but not cruel. Critiques should not be emotional for either person. They should be factual, lessons, suggestions. Mention what you mean and hush. Just as a writer shouldn't get upset about what you say about their work, do not get upset if they do not take you seriously, either. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Ripping someone up relentlessly shows you are a bully. Just telling someone it's good without details is lazy. Make your critique worth everyone's time - yours and theirs.

On some days, you'll make passionate love with the criticism you receive, and then there are the days you can't stand to look at it. 

Feel honored to give or receive criticism. You enter writing like you enter a serious romantic relationship. Some days you'll butt heads with your partner. Some days you'll walk in complete agreement. On some days, you'll make passionate love with the criticism you receive, and then there are the days you can't stand to look at it.

However you receive it, consider it a necessary step. Embrace it. Open your arms to it. Over time your writing becomes so mature, and your relationship with writing will grow so rich, that you'll wonder what you ever did without that feedback. I promise.

1 comment:

Sioux said...

Hope--I used to work at a residential facility for abused and neglected kids. The children who were in the worst shape were the neglected ones. Even if the abused ones had burns or broken bones or physical scars, they at least had gotten attention from their abusive parent. To have no bond with a parent is apparently horrendous.

Yes, being ignored is worse...