MOST PEOPLE hate being criticised, so as writers we’re in good company. It’s just that criticism can sting more when it relates to something you have created. But then again, as Aristotle said:
“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
As writers, we are creative people and doing nothing is not really an option for us. Which is why I am dedicating at least 30 blog posts to the delicate topic of how to deal with critics. And how we can learn to see them as an opportunity for growth.
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how critique can make you feel stressed and uncomfortable. This is probably one of the reasons why most people don’t sign up for scrutiny unless they absolutely have to. And sometimes not even then, as a lot of self-published books bear witness of.
Sometimes we can choose to ask someone we trust to be the one to do the critique, but they are not necessarily the most reliable sources. People who love us may very well look at everything we do with rose-tinted glasses and tell us it’s fantastic. Even when it’s demonstrably not. And that’s why it’s important to let a variety of voices give us the feedback we need.
Most of the time, though, the critique we receive the most of is the one we haven’t asked for. And guess what? That has to be ok too. Provided you’re writing things that you publish that is. If people invest their time and money in our stories, they have every right to review our work and let people know how they felt about it. (If you’re just writing for the love of writing and sharing it with your family and friends, this does not apply to you.)
Generally speaking, people don’t like being criticised. For any reason. It’s right up there with public speaking on the list of things people really hate. But why do we hate criticism so much? Well, here are the top three reasons:
1. It's All In Our Head
Did you know that your brain has a thinking part and an emotional part? And that criticism affects the emotional part of your brain the most.
The emotional brain is where your past is stored. All the memories of the individual experiences you’ve had with criticism in the past are stored there. That means that your personal experiences with criticism come back to life every single time the emotional part of your brain overrides the thinking part.
What this means is that it’s harder to be rational and keep your cool when something triggers your emotional brain. The reaction from such triggers can be really intense, and most us want to avoid those feelings at all costs. But the good news is that we can work on this and get better at handling it.
2. Rejection Always Feels Personal
Rejection is never easy to deal with, and most writers have dealt with an awful lot of rejection. Just the other day, I read about a writer who had been rejected repeatedly for 16 years before they finally got their first book published.
It is very difficult not to feel personally rejected when someone criticises something you poured your heart and soul, and hundreds of hours, into. Rather than evaluating the feedback we received, to be sure there is, in fact, something wrong, we have a tendency to take it as a personal rejection.
What’s important to remember is that there are many reasons we receive critical feedback. Some of those reasons are valid, but some of them are not. To avoid the very common reactions of self-doubt, guilt, and shame, it’s imperative that we learn to distinguish between valid and invalid criticism.
3. We Don’t Know What To Do
Hearing negative feedback can trigger a fight or flight response. It may leave us feeling like we need to do something. Or to stop doing something. Somehow, something in us has been taught to equate criticism with a need for action. But most of the time, it’s not quite clear what needs to be done which can make the sting even harder.
We hate hearing criticism because we don’t always know what to do about it. And when we don’t know what to do, we can spin out of control emotionally.
As writers we have to expect to be evaluated, but we can’t be expected to enjoy it. Even the most constructive and well-meaning critique can be painful to take onboard. It’s not fun to learn that you’ve made mistakes, but it does help us become better writers. Even when the criticism comes out of the blue and feels brutal. Knowing that nearly everyone hates criticism as much as we do can help us take it on the chin and give us the strength we need to endure it.
– What’s the best and/or worst criticism you’ve ever received?
Let’s talk in the comments below, or send me your response via social or email.
Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed your stay and I look forward to seeing you again.
© Evalena Styf, 2020