Guest Post by Writer’s Relief Staff
Let’s face it; most writers become victims of a curmudgeonly critic at one time or another. While many professional writers tell us not to take harsh messages to heart, we all know that it only takes one mean-spirited critique to set us back both emotionally and creatively. A less-than-favorable comment can send us writers diving headfirst into a tub of ice cream or—worse—scare us away from our writing for days, weeks, or even years on end.
The way we see it, you have an important choice to make when you butt heads with a not-so-nice critique partner:
- Option 1: You can measure the critic’s recommendations with an impersonal eye and decide if there’s anything useful in it for you to use.
- Option 2: You can take the critique personally instead of professionally and allow your work to suffer as a result.
If you’ve chosen Option 1, read on! We’ve got some advice on how to turn negative reactions to brutal critique into useful, positive tools.
Appreciate the critic’s work. When you stop and think about the thought and effort the critic has put into his or her comments, you might actually feel a little grateful—even if the critique was ultimately off base. Someone cared about your work enough to critique it, so be the bigger person and give harsh critics the benefit of the doubt.
Excuses are useless. It’s great to let the negativity roll right off your back, but it is unwise to write off helpful tips just because you’re insulted. You might think: What does she know? She doesn’t write in this genre; who is she to judge? The truth of the matter is that once you’ve shared your writing with a reader, their experience of your writing is subjective (as opposed to “wrong”). If you want to make sure that you and your future readers are on the same page, it can be helpful to hear all points of view with an open mind.
Remember that the critic is human too. If three out of four of your critique partners are giving you positive feedback, you might want to consider what’s going on in that fourth critic’s life. The critic might be bringing some negative experiences and feelings from their personal life to the table when they’re reviewing your work. Keep this in mind and try to be understanding; everyone has a rough day now and then. Focus on remembering that the critique, while maybe a bit hurtful, was still meant to help you.
Pay attention to the positive. So the negative feedback is a bit too much for you. That’s all right. Take a close look at the positive feedback you’ve received. What did your critics say you did well? How can you build on these strong points and make them even stronger? There’s brilliance in playing to your strengths.
Phone a friend. Writing (and rewriting) is a process. One negative critique does not necessarily have to trigger a drastic overhaul of your work. It might be helpful to have a chat with someone who has read and been supportive of your previous work—someone who has provided you with kind and constructive feedback.
Take a step back. If you’re especially shaken by a particular critic’s comments, consider putting the work to the side—at least for a little while. Having some time to think can help you gain a clearer head and more accurate perspective. Who knows? You might even come to agree with your critique partner in the end!
While it might be hard to separate yourself from your work, remember: You are NOT your writing. And when you get negative feedback, the best thing you can do is find a way to spin it around and use it in a positive way.
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