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How Do I Handle Criticism?

How do you handle criticism of your work?

When I first stated writing, I was terrified of critique. I know I was not alone in this terror because I witnessed plenty of other writers become a variety of emotions that ranged from quiet and upset, to defensive and angry after receiving less than stellar feedback on their MS.

I feel like one of the biggest growth experiences I ever had as a writer was learning to put my work out there and not freak out about it. Of course, this only happened because I continued to put my work out there, repeatedly, to be rejected. After awhile, I think I just got bored with the drama and decided to think of it more as work I was doing rather than A PIECE OF MY SOUL.

I mean, I’m not personally offended if someone doesn’t like a psychological report I’ve written. 

Anyway, I’m thinking this because of a comment I left on J.A. Kazimer’s blog yesterday. This is what I said when she shared about her revision process and asked about how other writers managed their revisions:

I just do little parts at a time. When the notes come from my agent, I read them through once, put them aside, come to them latter and work on a few of them. Oddly, revision notes don’t really bother me the way they used to. I remember when I first started writing and a critique would hurt my feelings–that seems so silly now. 

To which she replied (I’m not quoting exactly here) that critique didn’t bother her, but reviews could be tougher to handle.

It got me thinking and I realized that yes, not-so-positive reviews might be more difficult to handle than criticism from crit partners and/or agents/editors. Here is why I think this is so; my agent and editor send me a private email with what they feel is wrong.

Reviews are out there for the whole world (well, the parts of the world that cares to look at them) to see. It is public criticism.

Yes, that might be just a little bit harder to manage.

How do you handle criticism?


25 Responses to How Do I Handle Criticism?

  1. j.a. kazimer says:

    Exactly right. It’s public, you cannot respond, and they can be really cruel. One called me homophobic. Like they know me. Like they know anything about me. Like they know that the editor that bought this book is gay.

    But on the flip side, some reviewers are amazing. Like everything else in in writing, there’s a good and bad side.

    Anyway, I think you’re amazing. Not that my opinion matters. 🙂 Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    • The not replying would be so hard…especially when the review DOES get personal (AND has nothing whatsoever to do with the book!)

      It makes me nervous to think about getting reviews myself when my book comes out in June…like you, I’ll try to just focus on the positive (hopefully they’ll be some.)

      Thank you for your kind words and for being the inspiration for the post!

  2. S.P. Bowers says:

    Hmmm, reviews might well be worse. I don’t have any experience but reviews are on the finished product, the words we worked so hard on and couldn’t get any better. It comes after we set it loose and the book is on it’s own, forming bonds (either good or bad) with readers. I think that may make it harder, knowing the book is no longer completely yours, that there is nothing you can do to it now. With Crits, we know it’s all suggestions to make the book better, but the book is still ours, we can take the suggestions or not. We are still in control. With post publication reviews that’s not the case. This is all purely hypothetical of course.

    I don’t think I have a problem with receiving crits. I try to distance myself from the book and instead of seeing it as a child or a bit of myself I try to see it for what it is, a project that needs improving.

  3. Pk Hrezo says:

    Hey Rebecca! Yep, it’s tough stuff. We really have to learn to separate ourselves from our work. It’s not us that’s being criticized, it’s the story as a whole. It does get easier, but there’s always a sinking feeling when someone finds something negative about our work of art. :S

    • And how big is the something! Is it just, “this second paragraph here…it needs to be reworded or cut.” Or more like, “Hmmm, you jump POV all over this book. I think you should rewrite THE ENTIRE MS.”

  4. Julie Luek says:

    At least with critiques, they usually come with the desire to help you succeed as a writer. They also come with an opportunity to change and improve. Critical reviews just sit out there with ominous negativity and no ability on our part to practically respond. Your wisdom and perspective are no doubt hard earned and learned.

  5. Yes, I imagine learning not to let negative reviews bother me will be the next big hurdle! I think I’m usually good at taking criticism — I love getting feedback because I want to be better. There have been a few times when a piece of critique got under my skin, and, interestingly enough, those were in public forums, when I put something up for critique and a stranger decided to have a bashing party. Ha! I’ve never minded private critique, ever. But yes, there is something different about it being in public, especially if you get the feeling someone is just taking out their personal angst on you. I think if I am ever published I will do my best to ignore all reviews! 🙂

  6. Time does heal the wounds, that’s for sure. In the beginning I took every criticism to heart. You could often find me close to tears for the entire day. Today, I don’t pay them too much attention. People are entitled to their opinions. And let’s face it… who can please everybody every time? There are actually people out there who don’t like Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber, or Michale Buble.

    Thanks for sharing this, Rebecca. Happy New Year.

  7. I see it as an opportunity to grow and learn from. Knowing that not everyone is going to like your stuff and accepting that ahead of time also helps, or so i would assume. Excellent post!

    I gave you a Shout-Out on my blog today. 🙂

  8. Kelley Lynn says:

    Well, I haven’t had reviews yet (well, I have, but they’re from my CPs who helped make the book the way it is ;)) so I’m not sure how I will handle them, but I know for certain I will read them. Because I can’t not.

    As far as critiques LOVE THEM. Gosh, I can’t get enough. Tell me, tell me, tell me, what you think. I might not agree, but heck I want to know. Because its going to be FAR better finding out now, when I can change something, then when its out there and those reviews are coming in 🙂

  9. following from david, hi!! critism is tough, but just remember, it’s just someone trying to help

  10. Michelle says:

    I think I’m getting better at it. At first I’d completely fall apart.. now I only sometimes fall apart.

  11. Jennine G. says:

    I don’t know what I’d do. Well maybe I do. I once had a parent complain to my principal about something that he/she misinterpreted. Completely was not what I meant and it destroyed me because I had my whole identity wrapped in “I am a teacher” and I always do my job with the best of intentions. So I think we really need to know who we are and not let ourselves get too wrapped up in that one thing so that when criticism comes it bowls is over. I am more than just that one thing I do.

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