I don’t like criticism. I don’t care how “constructively” it may be intended, it is still difficult to be criticized. It isn’t because I believe I’m perfect. I know I’m far from it. The reason I hate criticism is because I KNOW that I am not perfect, and I really hate for other people to point out that fact.
For writers, criticism is a given. Nothing written will ever be received joyfully by every person. The urge to criticize is part of human nature. When we don’t like something, we criticize it. Most of the time, we are merciless. We criticize without thinking about the other person’s feelings. We criticize without considering the motive behind what’s written. We criticize without taking the time to really hear what the writer is trying to say.
A good critic should know how to criticize without belittling the one being criticized. I remember my senior year of high school, having a teacher who said that my writing had to have been plagiarized because someone my age couldn’t possibly understand the real meaning of the “big” words I used. She was wrong. Her criticism hurt because she made an assumption about me that wasn’t true. I was offended as a writer and as an intelligent young person who had always used “big” words. To assume that I couldn’t understand all of those “big” words was an insult to me and my parents who had taught me many of those “big” words. Her narrow-minded ideas were hurtful and just plain stupid. As an adult, I see that it was her narrow-mindedness that deserved the criticism, and not my ability to use words to my advantage.
Disliking criticism is common among writers, I think. For myself, I know that I don’t always love what I’ve written, but I do want other people to like it. There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a written work and feeling good that you not only finished it, but you put the best of yourself into it. When someone comes along and criticizes that, it feels a bit like a slap in the face.
The journey to accept criticism isn’t just about accepting criticism with grace. I think it is also about making yourself understand that criticism isn’t always telling you that they your writing stinks. Sometimes, criticism comes from people who see potential you have as a writer and they want to do their part to make you better. Criticism isn’t always personal. Sometimes, it is, there is not doubt about that, but sometimes criticism can lead you into an understanding about the way you write and give you a motivation to do better the next time.
Like everything on this blog, accepting criticism is just another part of the writer’s journey. Like everything in life, accepting criticism isn’t about what is said, but it is about how you react to it. If you react professionally, despite the level of professionalism of your critic, then you will find that even the most spiteful criticism can be used to your advantage. And that is what will make you a better writer. Your reactions will be a determiner of your success. No critic, no reviewer, no teacher, can ever take your words away from you. You just have to decide how to use them to your advantage.