It is a truth universally acknowledged that writers need thick skins. Or really anyone who creates something for the consumption of others.
All art, once it becomes public, is fair game for criticism and critique. There will always be people who like what you create, and there will also always be people who don’t like it. Learning to accept criticism and critique, or at the very least ignore it, can be one of the hardest things for a writer, especially considering our enormous egos.
Criticism, constructive or not, can hurt. But those are just growing pains. We all want to get better as writers, and our own judgement can only take us so far. At some point, we need to give our writing to others and find out what works and what doesn’t. Sure, you can take it or leave it when it comes to criticism. You have the final say in any and all changes (at least until you start throwing contracts and publishers and editors and agents in the mix.) However, if most of your alpha and beta readers and the people in your writing group or whoever are saying the same thing about your writing, it might be good to consider working on whatever it is they are talking about.
In fact, even if only one person is suggesting a certain change, it might be a good idea to briefly consider their suggestion. Everyone comes into things with different perspectives, all of which are legit. You just need to think about your ultimate vision for your piece and how that perspective might affect it.
It is also important to have a good attitude when it comes to criticism. I have been an angry person my whole life (yay, depression!), and unfortunately that came out a lot when I was taking college writing classes. Here are some things that I did that I want you to learn from:
- I challenged certain critiques. This is not inherently bad, because you obviously have a right to question their critiques, but usually in writing workshops you want to be silent and just listen. If you don’t understand a comment, then by all means ask for clarification, but don’t get angry.
- I tried to explain myself. If you have to explain yourself, you didn’t write it well enough.
- I very obviously hated certain people in class. One guy in my class cheated on multiple of his girlfriends, people I knew, so I had no respect for him as a person or a writer. Yes, you are going to hate people, especially in a college course. But keep it to yourself. If you plan on making this a career or really if you want to work with others at all, you don’t want to be known as someone who is difficult to work with.
- I had a superiority complex. I liked what I wrote and I didn’t like what most others wrote, so I obviously felt I was the best writer. Writers do need a little bit of ego to keep them going, but ultimately we want to be a community that builds each other up and fosters a welcoming environment where beginners will want to continue and get better. Not everyone is going to be at the same level. Everyone starts somewhere. Don’t be a jerk about it.
So basically what we have learned is that I was a huge asshole in college. I 100% would have learned more if I had a better attitude.
Learn from me. Be better.
(Side note, sorry for missing last week’s post. I actually wrote it on time but got lazy and didn’t post it.)