This week, I decided to take a break from my reviews and share with you something I found very, very useful in my journey as a writer.
Handling criticism has never been my strongest suit. On the contrary, I am the kind of person who would stop writing for weeks if I would get one negative comment on my story.
I started writing and posting online when I was fourteen. And it was not until very recently that I realized the importance of criticism and how important it is to a writer – only when handled carefully.
This post will mainly be about on how to handle criticism in reference to online writing or even blogging.
Also, most of the inspiration for this article came from College Info Geek podcast which speaks more on how to handle criticism in general. I found the podcast very helpful, while it spoke a lot about on how to handle criticism about writing, it was not very specific and thus I decided to just apply the podcast to writing for my fellow writers. You can find the podcast here.
Advantages of Criticism to A Writer
1. The Shortcut to Learn New Things
If we didn’t have criticism in our life, we will have to take the long way to learn anything.
The podcast started with this line and this, basically, sums up why we need criticism in our life. It is the shortcut to new knowledge.
No matter what an avid reader you are, you cannot possibly traverse all genres and technicalities of writing within a limited span of time. Learning can occur from experience – so, you publish ten books and your eleventh book based on those experiences is your breakthrough. And I don’t know about you, it takes me at least two years to complete a novel. I guess it will be easier for authors – who just write. But then again, in the present publishing scenario, there are many things an author is supposed to do especially for marketing.
In a nutshell, taking the advice of someone who is offering it – is like learning from their experience. It may seem like a hard slap if the criticism is too scathing, but trust me, it will save you a couple of years or more.
2. Evolution as a Writer
If you have been writing for a while, I beg you to stop for a moment and look back at the thing you wrote for the first time. You know, the piece you were so proud of that you read it to many people or even posted it online and now compare it to what you have been writing now.
That is my point.
If you do not get criticism, you will become stagnant and perhaps, end up writing the same thing again and again.
3. Improve Writing Skills
I can vouch through my seven years of writing online that the thing I wrote in 2012, I would not bother reading today. Why? Obscure sentences, bad grammar, no expression and multiple uses of ‘said’ – I remember when a reviewer back in my fanfiction days told me
“Said is boring – we all know that your characters are either speaking or thinking but tell me how they are speaking it, what’s their tone, why they are saying it that way. Are they making animated hand gestures? Or are they calm and stoic? Do they speak softly? Or ina high-ptiched tone? Or are they hoarse from the mile they ran? Don’t just tell me what they said tell me how they said it, why they said it.”
What an advice! Something that stuck with me to this day. And added dimensions to my narration. So, when you are getting a feedback or criticism and you reflect on it – you’ll improve.
How to Handle Criticism?
Don’t be the Dragon:
I think that once we begin to write a lot, and start to gain some semblance of readership and accolades for our writing, we become a bit like a dragon hoarding the treasure. It’s your masterpiece, and you love it. So, you become defensive. And that’s the problem. The key here is, you are not the dragon. You are the creator of the treasure. So, even though, a knight might come along and not find your treasure worth stealing. It’s okay – you can improve it.
Be the Humble Worker:
When you get criticism from someone, you tend to ask “So, how many books have you published?” Don’t. It’s not about that. It is actually about having a mindset that anyone can teach you something important. I don’t intend to go all philosophical over here. But it is the truth. Even a reader who has no clue about writing technicalities reminds you of things like foreshadowing, obscure sentences and completely unrequired scenes in your story. So, don’t go all, “What have you achieved?” But instead, “What can I take from this one?”
Leave the Criticism When You’re Emotional
Alright. Your emotions are running high and you think that this review is just something that is going to push you towards frying your hard drive and burning your manuscript. Ignore the criticism. Keep it aside. Let it marinate for a while. Then, a week or two later, open up that criticism again. And actually, reflect on it. We are not emotional fools, but we tend to do foolish things when emotional. Take a very logical and objective look at the feedback or criticism.
The Criticism is not a Criticism of You but Your Work
So, please, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you or where you come from but about what your writing is conveying. Sometimes, what you are trying to convey is not what you’re actually conveying. Don’t take any criticism as a personal attack – and about being defensive, we have already established – Don’t be the dragon.
Balance Between Your Writing and Criticism
This is a vast topic in itself, but I will be very brief over here. You have your goals and vision of your story in your mind. Now, the key is reflecting on your criticism but not becoming a slave of every review you get. Because, you cannot please everyone. Take every type of criticism you get and evaluate on how it is helping you in your final goal.
Some Mental Hacks
- When you receive a criticism and it hurts, go back to your own old work and gain a perspective
- Every year or so, check whether you have improved from the previous year or not.
- Not all criticism is valid – empathise with the ones who send in hate messages – they must be having a very bad day. Move on.
- Determine your goals, and weigh in every criticism you get with the idea, “Does this lead me to where I want to go?”
And that’s it for today. Do tell me what you think in the comments below. Feedback – as this post has already assured – is always appreciated.
Have a good day!