Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Accepting Critiquing from

This is a really good post on accepting critiques from

Often, we try to sweep unpleasant feelings under the carpet to avoid dealing with them. But experiencing them can help us deal with and get past them. So go ahead and admit to yourself -- and your crit buddies, if you need to -- that sometimes it's hard to take even constructive criticism. I bet they'll tell you they feel the same way!

Now that we've established the problem, let's look at how to deal with it.

1. Realize that a critique of your work is not a critique of you.

Like I said above, it can be hard not to take crits personally. But nobody -- and that includes people like, oh, Stephen King -- started out as a brilliant writer. Yes, some folks (like King) have a definite head start when it comes to raw talent, but everyone needs some work to get it right.

For example, King was determined to get published from the time he was a teen. He began sending short stories out and, like the rest of us, started racking up rejections. He put a nail in the wall, and each time he got one, he stuck it on the nail. Pretty soon the nail fell off the wall and he had to put up a big fat spike instead. But when he got feedback from an editor or a mentor, he didn't feel sorry for himself or swear to give up writing -- he buckled down and figured out how to be a better writer based on that feedback.

And we all know how that turned out.

So separate critique of your work from a critique of you.

2. Even if you can't help but take critiques personally, realize that the criticism (and the bad feelings that can accompany it) won't kill you.

People who choose to pursue clinical or counseling psychology need to be aware of their own biases and the messages they're sending others verbally and nonverbally. But when you start grad school, you're rarely as self-aware as you need to be. So guess what happens when you get there? That's right -- they start pointing out every little mannerism, bias, and trait. Worse, they videotape you so they can point to the behavior and say "That is a problem." If you can't see it, they play it over and over -- often in front of a crowd -- to force you to acknowledge the problem.

It's enough to make anyone want to crawl into a corner and curl into a fetal ball. But you know what? Even in such a situation, you start to realize that you can survive it. Eventually, you realize that the fear of taking in constructive criticism is often worse than actually facing it head-on and dealing with it. Sure, you might have some mannerisms or vocal tics that need work, but that doesn't mean you're a failure as a person.

The same thing is true with writing. You may have a lot of trouble not feeling bad when someone doesn't like your character or the twists your plot took. You may want to throw everything out the window when someone believes you need a major change to make the story work. But that doesn't mean there's something wrong with you as a person. It just means that your vision isn't coming through as clearly as you'd hoped.

Still, sometimes we need to feel the sad and frustrated feelings before we can look at things more clearly. So if you need to, go ahead and feel sorry for yourself for a day or two, but then it's important to pack up your pity party and get down to business.

Criticism can be tough to take, but you CAN take it. And the more practice you have at taking it gracefully, the better you will get at it. Promise!

3. Rather than getting overtly defensive, ask questions and find ways to improve clarity.

Now that you know that it's okay to experience the bad feelings -- they won't kill you -- you can have them and then move on. One of the best ways to move on is to look at places your crit buddies see problems and find out more so you can make good changes. Try asking questions like:

What made this [plot point, character motivation, etc.] confusing? What would help me make it clearer?

Is this a problem you're seeing consistently through the story/novel? What skills do I need to hone to correct that problem? Can you recommend any resources that might help me/have helped you?

Could you suggest ways I might fix this problem? Examples might help me see possibilities.

Remember, the goal in soliciting crits is to make your story better -- so follow up on anything that's unclear!

4. Keep your eye on the goal.

Remember, growth and change are usually difficult. But if they get you closer to a treasured goal, it's all worth it!

So...what have I missed? How do YOU deal with constructive criticism?

No comments:

Post a Comment