I’m trying out something new on the blog: adding clickable, shareable tweets to my posts for reader’s tweeting convenience. I don’t know if this will make a lick of difference, but a lot of blogs do it and I want to be one of the cool kids. In the spirit of this post’s subject matter, feel free to tell me it sucks!
Constructive criticism is a vital resource necessary for any writer to grow. Especially when you’re a new, unseasoned writer, but even those who have been in the game for a long time need their mistakes pointed out. After all, how will you learn what to fix if you don’t know what needs fixed? Unfortunately, it also means you have to grow a thick skin–something new writers don’t come equipped with.
I value constructive criticism on my work. I want suggestions and feedback from editors and readers alike, letting me know where I screwed up and, ideally, how to fix it, that way I don’t make the same mistakes next time. I’ve learned invaluable lessons from the editors I’ve worked with, and I always strive to look out for my previous missteps in new manuscripts. However, even though I’ve been at this for a while, that doesn’t mean criticism doesn’t sting. My first reaction is always to get a little prickly, but I’ve taught myself to let it prickle for a minute, then take a deep breath and study the mistake and the ways to rectify it. When I’m finished I usually say, “Wow, I’m glad somebody pointed that out and told me how to fix it. Now I know!”
When you’re a newbie, constructive criticism can hurt a lot more, though. That’s because when you’re new you’re making a lot more mistakes, and if someone gives you a full list of the weak spots in your precious manuscript that you worked so hard on, it’s going to feel like they’re picking on you. You might feel overwhelmed, or ashamed, or want to lash out. You might start to think the whole thing is a steaming pile of crap and you should just abandon this writing thing forever.
The thing is, no one develops a tough skin except to crawl through the briars and let them scrape you up. If you’re new, you might not believe it, but eventually things get better, you make less mistakes, and the criticism becomes much easier to swallow. No one benefits from an echo chamber–it makes you go deaf. If you’re just looking for some to tell you how amazing and perfect you are, you’re not ready to be a writer.
If you’re just looking for some to tell you how amazing and perfect you are, you’re not ready to be a writer.
Of course, there’s a difference between negative criticism or outright abuse, and constructive criticism. As such:
- Negative criticism: That was so bad I think you destroyed the entirety of literature itself. Never try to write again.
- Constructive criticism: I liked the premise of your story, but I feel like there’s some weak spots or places where you can move the story along quicker–can I give you some pointers?
Feel free to ignore abusive, negative criticism and tell the person who spewed it that you think their face destroyed the entirety of literature. These are not helpful people, and you don’t have to share your work, or your time with them.
Do you enjoy constructive criticism? How thick is your skin at this point?