Criticism. It’s hard to take sometimes but has the power to make us better writers, maybe even better people but lets stick to writing here.
Having someone tell you they like your story is great. It gives you a massive boost in confidence. You feel the long hours slaving away at the computer or researching with pen and paper down at the library is somehow worth it. As a novice in the writing game, you feel like that publishing deal, that agent’s impending call or that first 1000 indie book sales is actually achievable.
OK, enough of the positive side, now we look at the dark side, yes the side that Darth Vader sleeps at night.
When someone tells you there are issues with your writing, even small issues it can be tough. Tough not to take it personally or as some unforeseen assault on your integrity as a writer. We all make mistakes, that’s a given. It’s part of the human condition but many of us don’t like it when someone finds them and heavens forbid, points them out. As a writer when someone finds a spelling mistake or error in grammar it can be bad, annoying almost that you didn’t spot it yourself when you reread, rewrote, repeat. It’s a black and white thing though. You fix the black and make it white. Easy. But when someone makes a criticism, although constructive, of your story, then it can be much harder to take.
Forming a story in your mind takes time. You formulate the bare bones of the outline, maybe write it down or type it out. You may go on to create a few characters, the main one’s anyway. You imagine their inner personality, their outer persona, create a back story appropriate to their character and get it all documented somewhere. Next you may get into the nitty gritty of the story. The theme, the opening, the middle, the climax, the end or you may fly by the seat of your pants moving from one scene to the next, unscripted until you reach the finale. Regardless of the differences we all possess as writer, what is common is that all of this takes time, colossal amounts of time. Unpaid time for those of us who don’t have a publishing deal and for those of us who do it’s greatly underpaid time. So when someone tells you they don’t like some aspect of your story, well how dare they. Do they have any idea of the blood, sweat and tears shed for your passion. If they did surely they would place you up there with the likes of Hemingway and Wilde.
But they don’t. A story to a writer is a personal thing. It is something created on a personal level. You don’t need to write about yourself or people you know but the story comes from somewhere deep inside you. Whether it is a topic you have an opinion on, or something you wish to explore or maybe a situation you think would make for a good novel and entertain others. It all comes from within. Our stories are products of who we are, they’re influenced by what we are influenced by. Looking at stories we create on this level, I can understand why criticism sometimes feels like a personal attack even though it’s not. Well hopefully it’s not, and if it is maybe don’t give those people your story to read next time, tell them you decided to become a baker or something (o;
For me, well I used to take it pretty bad. I used to mull over what people didn’t like for days trying to fix it until it was a shining example of perfection. Then I learned to actually listen to what the people were trying to say to me, what irked them and what their suggestions were to improve it. I don’t always agree but I certainly look at the issue brought up on a more objective level. My writing has improved vastly as a result.
It can be tough to take criticism but I try to keep in my mind the simple thought that ‘people just want to help not hinder’.
So how do other’s react to criticism, good or bad or somewhere in between?