How to Take Constructive (and Not-So-Constructive) Criticism
Relevant in all branches of the craft, criticism for writing is bound to find its way to you. Some take it better than others; some give it better than others. We have little control over how we get it, but we indeed have a say in how it’s received. The following are some things to keep in mind when having your writing reviewed (aka, being torn to shreds).
Keep in mind it’s for the greater good.
Getting feedback can only help you grow. Take it and you get better. Although, it also helps whomever you’re writing for, as they will no longer have to deal with your mistakes (just saying). At the very least, even if you disagree with it, you will have a better understanding of how they want the content written.
Don’t be too sensitive.
It’s a common trait for writers to be emotional. How else could they so deeply connect you to the characters they describe? Let’s get one thing straight: business is business. Clients want things a certain way. If you’re hired to write for someone, it’s a business transaction. Drop the ego and learn from your mistakes. If anything, this is a great technique for exercising patience.
Accept tough love.
Harsh words can do wonders if taken the right way. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Blunt honesty, although rough at times, is a very quick way to learn from very obvious mistakes. In fact, you should appreciate that level of directness as it often means the giver in question respects you enough not to beat around the bush. Silver lining, right?
Don’t forget the ultimate goal.
As we’ve mentioned before in these pages, writing is meant to communicate. You want your message to be clear, easily digestible and simple to read ¾ all while having a natural flow. If your writing is more complex and someone tells you to tone it down, that’s more a reflection on the end goal than it is on your wordsmith capabilities. Remember who you’re writing to, as well as who you’re writing for. At the end of the day, the audience should be just as pleased as the client.
If you’re working on a fictional piece that isn’t a said business transaction, take the subjectivity of a publisher’s criticism with a grain of salt. It all boils down to opinion. And you can’t argue taste. Some of the greatest writers were rejected dozens of times before becoming successful. Just keep your head high and your emotions low.