Hey writer, do you know that successful people tend to look at the wider currency of criticism? Instead of taking each review – whether positive or negative – too much to heart, they see it for what it is: Useful feedback to extract data from. And no, that still doesn’t mean that all criticism is valid.
The word criticism in itself has a negative connotation. It can easily make us defensive and resistant to whatever benefits we could potentially have drawn from it. I would argue that compliments and criticism are two sides of the same coin. Simply put, they’re like a currency that can be utilised in your favour.
People who have a healthy relationship with criticism use feedback to inform their decisions. In the same way compliments encourage behaviour, criticism can discourage it, but if you listen closely and treat it like feedback, you end up with a number of options. You can, for example:
IGNORE —> IMPLEMENT —> CONSIDER —> DISCUSS
Just remember, the fact that you’ve received critical feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do something about it. How you react, and what you do, is entirely up to you.
In this series, I’m trying to provide you with a veritable smörgåsbord of options, because I have loads of them and you need to find the ones that work for you.
First of all, you need to decide the merit of the criticism you’ve received. Who is the sender? What kind of relationship do you have with them? Does their opinion matter to you? Does it hold any weight? Do they have any authority over your behaviour? Questions like these can help you work out whether the feedback is helpful or hurtful.
IT'S OKAY TO IGNORE IT
Ignoring criticism is perfectly ok, but before you do you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
It’s possible, and sometimes even prudent, to ignore criticism. Some people aren’t offering up their opinion with your best interest at heart. Likewise, if you know that what you’re doing is the right course of action for you, disregarding the criticism is the appropriate response.
Having said that, there’s always value in hearing tough truths or considering the impact your actions may have had on someone else. You also need to consider the context. What, exactly, are you being criticised for?
Are you being willfully ignorant or blatantly offensive? Like some writers, whose names I won’t mention here, who exploit indigenous cultures or say/write hurtful things about stuff they don’t understand? If this is your problem, I would suggest that you apologise and make sure to educate yourself before you say anything else on the subject. If you’re not sure, drop us a comment or an email and we’ll try to help you work it out.
Did you make an honest mistake? Perhaps you said something that was misunderstood. misinterpreted or misconstrued? Or maybe you didn’t know that it could be seen in a different light? It happens to the best of us. Just apologise and move on.
Is the criticism addressing something that boils down to personal preference? Are they being rude or trolling you? Did they complain about something that has nothing to do with you? Ignore it and move on.
Ultimately, only you can decide if you want to ignore the feedback you received. Think about which action aligns best with your end game and stick with that.
IMPLEMENT IT, MAYBE?
Implement the lessons you learn from criticism that serves you. Sometimes the feedback you can extract from a bad review can provide a new perspective, and that can be interesting. We can’t know everything, and we can’t think of everything, so a fresh pair of eyes may be just what we needed to take our story to the next level.
Swift criticism can help you avoid making mistakes or massive blunders. It can even help you understand the perspective of your audience better. Take writing groups, beta readers or critique buddies as an example. When they tell us something about our writing, what are they actually saying? Don’t forget that what is crystal clear to us, who wrote the story, lived with the characters in our head, and know the headcanon inside out, may be utterly confusing to our readers.
Author Brandon Sanderson mentions in one of his lectures (on his youtube channel) how he wrote a book that confused all of his critique buddies. He had picked a name that suggested they were reading about a Greek hero, but nothing that happened matched that expectation. Luckily, he found out and implemented the criticism by changing the name. To Elantris. The story that would become his first published novel.
Implementing changes based on feedback is helpful when the criticism is righteous and makes sense. Sometimes what feels like criticism is actually someone looking out for your best interests.
SHOULD YOU CONSIDER IT?
The choice is yours, but my answer to this question is yes. Considering the feedback is always a good idea. Unless you can tell right away that you’re dealing with a troll, of course.
You don’t have to take immediate action when someone offers you critical feedback. Sometimes (almost always) there are benefits to waiting and considering the feedback over time. Time, in this respect, can be anything from a day to a few years depending on the situation.
In business, critical feedback is often accumulated over time to be used in the decision-making process. As a writer, you can do the same thing. Save the criticism you get in reviews, comments, feedback etc over time and see if you can find any patterns or themes in them that you can use as reference points when making future decisions.
DISCUSS IT WITH SOMEONE
Critical feedback should be a two-way street. There should be a discussion with clarifying questions. Solid feedback serves everyone better when you understand the motives behind it and are able to ask for details.
People with a healthy relationship to feedback aren’t triggered by criticism. They use it as an opportunity to engage rather than to close themselves off.
It’s important to establish a healthy relationship with criticism, because it will happen. Unless you write only for your own pleasure, that is, but if you’re reading this I assume you want to publish what you’re writing. And if you do, there will be times when the criticism stings.
If you work on your ability to differentiate between useful criticism and things you can ignore, you will soon develop your own healthy relationship to criticism. I’m not saying it won’t hurt or annoy you once you have, but it sure makes it easier to deal with. In fact, learning to see criticism as an important source of feedback can enrich your life and help make you a better writer and a stronger and calmer person.
Questions of the Day:
– Can you ignore criticism?
– How do you decide what to do with criticism?
Slide into the comments and let’s talk. Thank you very much for the visit. I hope you enjoyed your stay and look forward to seeing you again.
Evalena Styf is a knowsy roll model and prolific content creator who lives in a queen size bed in the outskirts of London, UK, with a doggo, two cats and a personal assistant.
After 25+ years of anonymous blogging on a number of free platforms, she decided to go pro in 2017. Since then, she’s been working on getting all of her texts edited and put on display in the imaginary pirate ship she’s named after one of her most prominent character traits: The Resilience.
Evalena primarily writes non-fictional texts about personal and professional development, living the dream, and how to keep on living and loving when everything around you seems to be falling apart.