Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Everybody's a Critic: Dealing With Criticism

Via Flickr
Criticism hurts.

Even when it's constructive, it stings.

So what can you do? How do you deal?

It's actually quite simple.

First: ask yourself two questions:

Was the criticism constructive? Can I gain something from it?

If you've read Being a Good Critic, you should remember: constructive criticism offers praise and also highlight areas that you can work on, whether that's something technical like grammar or something more abstract like character development.

But sometimes you get criticism that doesn't follow the constructive path (e.g. someone only points out what they didn't like). However, there may still be something worth sussing out. That's where the second question comes in. Is there anything you can gain from the glob of crap that's been thrown your way?

If the criticism doesn't give you some idea of how to improve, or better yet, specific examples of what to address, dismiss it. It's not worth worrying about. It may have been your critic focused on something subjective which you don't need to change. And if not, you'll more than likely find a better critic later on who can give you advice that's actually helpful.

Should the criticism be an actual attack on your writing (e.g. "Your character development is shit.") or on you ("You suck!"): dismiss it. That person doesn't deserve your time or your energy.

Last: check in with yourself.

Getting critiqued is a hard day's work. If you find the criticism niggling at you, if you can't figure out whether it's helpful or not: put it away. Try to forget about it. Work on something else. Do something fun. Come back to it when you're in a better mood. Read through the criticism again. Then read through your work with the criticism in mind.

At that point, you'll be able to better answer the question of whether or not the critique is helpful or if it's something you should just let go.

Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it; if unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it is justified it is not criticism, learn from it. - Unknown

Up next (and it'll be the last post) in the Everybody's a Critic series: responding to criticism without coming across as the proverbial thin-skinned-artiste.


L. M. Leffew said...

Good points made. You have to take criticism to create a good story but ferreting good from bad criticism is the moment of truth. Artists have a hard time with criticism because they can be their worst critic. We also develop our own styles which another person may or may not like. I'm looking forward to the series.

L. M. Leffew said...

Oh, definitely, we are our own worst critics. I am a professional procrastinator and that is, in large part, because I never feel like my work is good enough. I'm constantly rewriting and reorganizing which means it can take me forever to get a draft done. It's a challenge to get over.

I'm actually near the end of this series, if you missed the first posts, you can start here: http://chaoticallyyours.blogspot.com/2013/11/everybodys-critic.html

:) Thanks for dropping by.

L. M. Leffew said...

I can handle some criticism better than others. Sometimes, I go, "wow, they have a point," and even though it stings, I understand what they are saying, and I can tell it comes from a kind place. Other times, though? A mean-spiritied comment will blindside me. I've gotten better at handling that, but luckily it's a rare occurrence and I don't let it shut me down for long.

L. M. Leffew said...

Good that it's rare. Most of the bad or annoyingly unhelpful criticism I've received has been rare...largely limited to classes filled with English majors. (My God, that's a pedantic lot. And I say that as an English major.)

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