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We’ve all had a bad critique experience. And, sometimes, a particularly difficult or mean-spirited critique can be debilitating and even demoralizing! Here’s how one Writer’s Relief staffer describes her experience with handling a bad critique:
I had gone to my first real critique outside of my high school. My teachers had always been very supportive and complimentary, so it was a shock to my system when the relatively well-published poets in that critique group came down pretty hard on my poetry. I didn’t write poetry again until I was well into my twenties. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t let it get me down.
As writers, we’ve got to have tough skin. Being told we’ve got to change/revise our work is par for the course. You have a choice: You can view critique as helpful (even when you disagree), or you can allow yourself to become emotionally defeated. Career writers work hard to learn how to rise above the despair. They dust themselves off after a tough critique and go back to writing again.
Of course, some critiques are more scathing than others. Even well-intentioned and supportive critique can hurt. At some point, you’ll probably encounter a critique partner who is downright mean.
Prepare in advance so that when you do get tough feedback from a writer’s group, you’re ready for it. You can start by using our tips!
1. Don’t make excuses. It can be easy to write off advice that we don’t like: He obviously doesn’t get my writing. She clearly has no idea what good writing is. But the truth is that once you give your writing to someone else, it belongs to that reader. And you can learn a lot about your writing by being open to other people’s experiences—especially those people who have very different perspectives than your own!
2. Focus on the positive aspects of the critique. If you really can’t bear the negative stuff that was said about your work, focus on the positive. Think: So they liked my metaphors. How can I make my strengths even stronger? If you try to develop what you’re already doing well, you may see more favorable reactions in the future.
3. Consider the context. If you’re getting good feedback from most of your critique partners, but really bad feedback from one person in particular, you might consider the circumstances. Perhaps that one person is insecure and takes his/her anger out by putting other people down. If that’s the case, try to be understanding that we all fall on hard times, and then focus on the critique that is meant to help, not hurt.
4. Be grateful. When you’re in a state of real gratitude, it’s hard to feel bad. So even if you disagree with the nasty critique you were just given, perhaps you might look at this as an opportunity to become a stronger person, one who is not susceptible to unhelpful negativity. Take the opportunity to grow!
Some other tips from Writer’s Relief staffers:
Bury yourself in a box of chocolates or a gallon of ice cream.
As with a medical prognosis, I’d get a second opinion.
I would have to talk about it to someone who has been supportive of my writing in the past—someone who has been critical though constructive. I think it’s necessary to say some things out loud to put them in perspective—then take a deep breath, laugh a little, and forge ahead!
I would probably shed a few tears of insult (after all, we are human), and then reread any items I’ve already had published. Obviously someone appreciated my work.
Put the work away for a while, then come back to it knowing that you (and no one else) are the best judge of your own work.
Be honest with yourself, but not down on yourself.
I would wonder what negative karma a particularly mean critique partner might be experiencing in his/her life and I’d chant for that person’s happiness.
I’d try to strip my feelings from the critique and look at it objectively.
What’s your advice to other writers for dealing with critique? We invite you to share your ideas below!
At Writer’s Relief, we don’t offer critique and content feedback to our clients. But we do help with the submission process. Learn more today!