Taking Criticism in our Writing
As an English major in college, everything I write is going to be critiqued by one of my professors. When I first started at a community college, all my English professors raved about my amazing writing skills and how wonderful my writing was. The problem? They did not give me any constructive criticism and I did not learn anything from their remarks. When I transferred to a University, things got a little confusing for me as for the first time my writing was being critiqued. I got upset when my professors would criticize my work because I had always been told that I was a good writer. At first, I was angry and ignored the feedback I was receiving because they were clearly wrong and did not know what they were talking about. Luckily for me, at one point a professor made me go over an entire paper with him as he went through everything I needed to work on. It was then that I realized that the criticism I was being given was meant to help me improve as a writer, which is what I wanted. I learned to not see criticism as an attack on myself, but as an opportunity to improve as a writer.
It is not easy to take an honest opinion of our work and accept that there are weaknesses present, but we can only grow if we are willing to accept the criticism. Every critique gives us the means to successfully write what we want. Being able to deal with criticism positively is an important skill. It is hard to accept criticism, but how we decide to react to that criticism is what truly matters. There are two options: we can either use criticism in a constructive way to improve our writing, or in a destructive way that can cause our writing to become stagnant.
When hearing criticism on our writing we may hear things like:
“Your writing is awful, why do you even try?”
“You will not get anywhere with writing!”
“You are writing this all wrong.”
There are three things we can do as writers when dealing with criticism about our writing:
Separate the criticism from ourselves and our writing. Our critics are not attacking us, but are critiquing our writing and possible errors we have made. The feedback we receive is only to help us learn from our mistakes and to improve our writing skills. Do not take the criticism personally, it can be hard to accept when we receive a lot of criticism, but when it comes to writing, the more criticism- the better!
Ask questions. Asking questions shows that you listened to the feedback and it allows us to learn from our critics. Take this as a learning opportunity. We are not perfect and it is likely we will make a few mistakes here and there. We can take criticism as an opportunity to improve ourselves.
View criticism as a learning experience. Regardless of what type of criticism is given to us as writers, take the time to analyze it and look for opportunities to learn. It may help to try to understand the person’s point of view when we are not able to make sense of their criticism at the time.
Criticism also presents us with the opportunity to be understanding over choosing to become resentful. Much of the criticism of our writing comes from the people around us who want to support us in our writing. Remaining closed off to their points of view and allowing our pride to get in the only causes our own stunted personal development, potentially leading to damaging our personal relationships.
It is hard not to take criticism personally, and it can be even harder if we receive it more often than we would like. However, when we choose to process received criticism constructively, have an open mind and a positive attitude, we can turn the criticism we receive on our writing into an important tool to help us improve as writers.