How to Deal with Criticism

No matter how hard you try it will always feel personal when someone slams something you have written. The main way to deal with it is to change your view of what criticism is. The word ‘criticism’ has several meanings but there are two main definitions:

1. Finding Fault

“The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes”, (Oxford Dictionaries).

This definition is the one we most associate with criticism and so it often perceived as a purely negative and often, even aggressive act. An example of such type of criticism can be something like `that was awful’ or `I hated it’, both of which only tell you that the commenter claims to dislike it and gives no useful information as to what the problem was. It may be true that they disliked it but of all reviews, this is the least helpful, it neither encourages the writer or gives any indication as to what the writer can do to improve.

2. Review

“The Analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”, (Oxford Dictionaries).

This definition is the main purpose of a review, to discuss what worked or didn’t work and often to give advice or suggestions to help the author improve. These can vary from, `The beginning was really moving.’, to more complex and in-depth reviews listing positive and negative aspects of your writing. These are the most useful reviews to receive as they give you specific details about what the reviewer liked/didn’t like and often offer suggestions on how to improve. You might not always follow their advice but you should always consider their opinions.

How to Respond to Criticism

Allium cepa growing.

Allium cepa growing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The two definitions explain two common type of reviewers, those who are purely negative but give no suggestions or analysis to explain why and those who give constructive advice. This differentiation will help you to identify the types of criticism you receive but how you respond to them is up to you. Although it still stings to get negative comments if you try to perceive all criticism as helpful you will deal with criticism much easier. Try to view all comments whether negative or positive as just an opinion and judge whether there is anything useful in the comment.  Try to see reviews of all kind as a chance to grow and to improve rather than as a personal insult. It is hard but try not to reply to aggression or to those who try to provoke negative reactions with an angry response. The best response, if you cannot respond in any other way, is to thank the person regardless of what you feel about their comment. After all they are still entitled to their opinion even if you don’t agree with it.

Remember also that some people have a very critical mindset and some don’t see the value of encouragement and so will only pick out points for improvement. Don’t be discouraged, this may just be the way they communicate and they may be trying to help.

Personally, I prefer to be honest but encouraging always focussing on what works as well as offering any advice, as I know how personal creative writing is and how important encouragement is to writers.

So remember not all criticism is bad, the word isn’t negative in itself.

Criticism has a positive side.

Criticism helps you to improve and shows you what you did well but also how you could get it better next time. Try to keep this in mind and just keep writing regardless. You will always come across differing opinions about your work but many of those opinions may hold vital advice for improvement.


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