Writing Wednesday: Encouraging Advice for Dealing with Criticism

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It’s one thing to look at examples of now-published writers who survived rejection (see Writing Wednesday: 4 Famous Rejections) and another thing completely to try and apply these tales of perseverance to your own setbacks. Dealing with critics (and even “haters”) of your work is part of the process of being a writer, and this type of feedback cannot be avoided. Fortunately, there are some tricks to keeping your head up during the rough times and hopefully help you find the light in moments of rejection.

Stick to Your Goals

Once you show your work to other people, the (often unsolicited) ideas and “constructive” criticisms are going to come flooding in. When navigating this deluge of largely subjective feedback, it’s important to keep the initial goals of your project in mind. This will help you pick out the advice that can actually help, and to know when to say “thanks but no thanks” to someone else’s views.

You Can’t Please Everyone

The old adage “Those who can’t do, teach” can perhaps more appropriately be stated as “Those who can’t do, advise.” The advice of an editor or respected colleague is more likely to come from an unbiased and informed place than that from a fellow aspiring writer. If someone else is feeling frustrated with getting published or, even worse, has no idea what it takes to write, they aren’t going to be the most objective sources of feedback. Some people are, no matter what, bound to pick apart your work and if you find that you continually do not receive helpful feedback from a particular individual, it may be time to cut him or her loose from your writing and editing process.

Write For Yourself, Except When You Can’t

The most important feeling you should have while writing is a sense of accomplishment that you’ve told the story you want to. Whether others “get” it or not, it’s paramount that you’re satisfied you’ve pushed yourself to craft something that you, personally, can be happy with. Unless you really are writing for someone else! If your work has been commissioned, then you need to make sure the goals as they’ve been set out for you have been met. This sort of freelance or commercial type of work may not be as personal as you’d like, but it’s key to stick to the guidelines when writing for someone else.

Choose Your Audience

If you’re getting criticism from a Biblical historian that your science fiction short story isn’t accurate enough, then maybe the problem isn’t with your writing but with your audience. When receiving criticism, it’s important to note the source.

Accept Some Advice

Likewise, if an astronaut gives a contradictory story of what life in space is like, it may be wise to listen up.

Don’t Give Up

No matter what, if you intend to get your work published someone else is going to have to look at it sometime. This means that feedback is going to come in, good and bad, and the important thing is to be able to accept it and move on. No writer, even the most successful, has 100% positive reviews, and neither will you. Keep focusing on why you write, and never forget that you’re not alone in this. Writers groups and workshops (online or in your community) can be great ways to bond with others going through the same types of experiences.

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For a more in-depth guide to moving past some common obstacles in the path of your writing career, check out Jennie Nash’s blog on Medium. She has a great series called The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat that, as a true success story, has itself been turned into a published book!

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