Monday, March 11, 2013

On Criticism

It’s something we all have to face as writers: criticism.

I have decided there are two things a writer needs in order to deal with criticism, and you might think they are contradictory, but if you have them in balance, then you’ll be able to handle criticism with ease. The two things are these: humility and confidence.

So, humility. To put it simply, you have to accept the fact that even though you might be a very good writer, there will always be room to improve. Even Stephen King relies on beta readers and editors. He knows he will write things that just won’t work, things that don’t make sense to the reader, and that he will get wordy and carried away sometimes. We all do. It’s a fact. And that’s why we need people around us who will tell us so, and why we need to have the ability to admit we are less than perfect.

The best thing about criticism? It makes us better. I have never submitted something for a critique and come away from it without finding some way to make my work better. We all have a form of “shelf blindness” when it comes to our work. It’s the same kind of thing as people with body odor who don’t notice because they’re used to it. It’s just the way life is.

So, in a nutshell, you’re not perfect. And that’s okay. Deal with it.

The second thing you need is confidence. To put it simply, you have to remember that not only are you not perfect, but nobody else is either. That includes those who critique your work. They might make suggestions, but at the end of the day, it’s still your work and you need to have enough confidence in yourself to say, “I see what they mean by that comment, but this is my work and I am choosing not to change that particular thing.” That doesn’t make you a snob or a bad person- it’s your work, not theirs. You are allowed to respectfully disagree.

Keep in mind, however, that if you have an editor or an agent who has agreed to represent your work, then in a way it becomes theirs too, so you might want to bend a little bit more with their suggestions; but even so, remember it’s your name people will see on the cover, so if it doesn’t feel true to you, then don’t do it- just be prepared for the consequences.

So, the next time you send one of your WIP babies out in the world to be judged, remember that it will probably get picked apart a little bit- and that’s okay. That just means it’s growing and getting better. But also remember that you still have the right to take it back and give it a cuddle and tell it it’s awesome and know that it is. Because after all, you made it. :-)



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