How to Receive Criticism

This post is mainly for writers, but I think it can apply to various circumstances in life. What is the best way to receive criticism? What if it’s unfounded or mean-spirited? How might we mitigate the damage it can inflict upon our self-worth? How can we stay motivated to continue a project when someone expresses harsh feelings toward it?

First, I am going to list the three main definitions of criticism so we know what we’re dealing with:

Now here are five of the best ways I have learned to deal with it while writing Gray Haze:

Tip #1: Always Know You Can Improve

This is true no matter what level of writer you are. Open yourself or your project up for criticism with the mindset that no matter how constructive, unhelpful, or painful the advice you receive, you are in a place where improving yourself or your project is not impossible.

In the past, I have felt somewhat hopeless when reading critique of my writing. It’s going to be so hard to fix that, I thought. Or, well if it’s that bad, I might as well quit now. These thoughts are not helpful, so now I simply tell myself before reading criticism that I can fix it in the next draft. The “I can” mentality has spared me a lot of unnecessary distress.

Tip #2: Discard Useless Critique

Often you will receive comments on your draft that don’t make sense or virtually cannot be implemented. I usually ask for a second opinion to ensure I am not too biased, then, if the second opinion aligns with my own, I will ignore the nonsensical critique forever.

“Useless” can also mean, “Look, I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m still going to leave this part the way it is.” It is your right as the author to keep something you think should be kept. You don’t always have to implement others’ advice. Writers have the freedom to do whatever they want with their project while it is a work in progress. But, again, a second or third opinion might (though not always) be necessary.

You should especially ignore criticism you receive after you have already published a book. No matter how “constructive,” criticism of a book that is beyond fixing is as useless to you as the comment, “You’re too tall.” So what? Ain’t nothin’ you can do about it now.

However, if you can take criticism of a published book and apply it to your current project, by all means, do that. Writing is a never-ending learning process, and you should take advantage of every opportunity to grow.

“The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.”

Elbert Hubbard

Tip #3: Take Notes

If you are receiving feedback from various sources, keep a notebook or document of the edits you plan to make, like a “to-do” list. This will spare you from becoming overwhelmed or scattered or forgetful, and it might save you from making the same mistakes in the future. Plus, when you do start editing your draft, you will be able to do it more efficiently with the list beside you. We all know how good it feels checking things off a to-do list.

Tip #4: Save Editing for Later

If you are in the beginning or middle stages of your draft and receiving feedback along the way, postpone the more time-consuming edits for the next draft. I tend to get overwhelmed if I am trying to progress the story and fix/rewrite what I already have at the same time, so if you would rather focus on writing and save editing it for later, that is advisable. Tip #3 makes it much easier to do so as well.

Tip #5: Be Grateful

Always receive criticism with a measure of gratitude. Even if you don’t feel it (particularly when the criticism is not accurate or helpful), it helps to fake it. If someone is unduly harsh about your work, and you respond with a smile and something like, “I’ll work on that. Thanks,” that person will most likely make an effort to be nicer in the future, simply because you did not respond with bitterness or resentment. You should make an extra effort to express gratitude when you receive feedback you specifically requested from someone. Both parties should feel edified in the end of the exchange. I can guarantee you will feel better about yourself if you are kind regardless of how fair it may be to the critic. And, the better you feel about yourself, the easier it will be to move on.

Any Thoughts?

Was this post helpful? Have any additional tips? Or would you like to critique this post? Comment below! 😉

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