The 3 Stages of Getting Criticism

Merlijn Hoek, Flickr Creative Commons.


1. EVERYTHING THEY SAID WAS RIGHT. You think you’re the WORST writer of all time and you should have never written this damn book. You’re worthless, so it was just a matter of time until someone saw it. Is it too late to BURN EVERYTHING you’ve ever written? You invite a good friend over for a bonfire. She says no thanks, she has to walk her dog. You decide you need to start shopping for new friends. No matter who your critic is, or what they said about your writing, you know they are 100% absolutely RIGHT and the more cutting their words, the TRUER you know they are.


2. EVERYTHING THEY SAID WAS WRONG. You have an epiphany. Who is this asshole who dared to criticize your writing? You’ve finally figured it out. They are JEALOUS of you. They are systematically trying to TEAR YOU DOWN and you won’t have that shit. You won’t have it one bit. You bet they don’t know ANYTHING about writing. You think about leaving one-star reviews for everything they’ve ever written. You ask your good friend to help you. She says no thanks, her Amazon account is frozen from doing this too many times for you before. You blast Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” Actually, you blast anything Taylor has ever sung because she gets you. Hater’s gonna hate! No matter who your critic is, or what they said about your writing, you know they are 100% WRONG and the more cutting their words, the more FALSE you know they are.


Okay, so you still care a little. But you recognize that everyone is a critic and art is subjective. You’ve come to terms with the reality that people have complicated reasons for liking or disliking any particular piece of writing and complicated motives  for providing feedback that can range anywhere from a systematic attempt to tear you down to a genuine attempt to make you a better writer and that the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, where the truth always lives. You heard that line a long time ago in August: Osage County and it resonated with you so much that you wrote it down and made it your life mantra. You stick to it most of the time except when someone criticizes your writing, then all mantras for healthy living are off the table because you’ve been writing for too long to be anything close to sane about these things. But you’ve had time to think about it now, and you might apply a few of the critic’s thoughts to become a better writer, and you might not. Either way, you’re stronger now and ready to repeat the cycle next week when you get more criticism.


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