Friday, August 11, 2017

How has your response to criticism evolved?

Hey all! Shannon here.

So, did you do it? Did you start the new school year?

We did. My kids started back this week and though the weather hasn't quite figured it out, FALL IS COMING.

That means next week's word war is the last showdown of the summer here at Go Teen Writers! Just like the previous two, it'll run Monday through Friday, and is meant to be a fun, come-and-go kind of event where we can encourage each other as we write. 

You should write with us! Inigo would.


As we near the end of our summer panels, I'm curious about your response to today's question. It's a topic every single one of us will address, again and again, throughout our career. 

How has your response to criticism evolved?


Shannon Dittemore
I have more perspective now than I did when I first started writing. It’s so easy to take everything personal and there are lots of mean people out there to make even the most confident writer gun-shy. But the truth is, we need a critical eye and if we can find it in beta readers and agents and editors who genuinely care about us and our careers, we’re blessed. Considerate critique will make us better and will prepare us to deal with the more mean-spirited reviewers out there.

And while I know those things to be true, it's still painful to hear negative things about my stories. These days, I'm able to filter through the feedback for the stuff that will make me better, but my stomach clenches every time I send my story out to be read--even by friends. In fact, even good feedback can mess me up. I get lost in turns of phrase and what someone DIDN'T say about my book. It just goes to show how screwed up it is to write for other people's approval. If you're able to continue writing after receiving criticism, you just might make it out there.


Stephanie Morrill
When I was a teen writer, I used to print out chapters of my book and give them to my friends “for their honest opinion.” But what I truly meant was, “Please read this and tell me that you think it’s great, and that I’m great, and that I’m totally going to be a famous author!” 

One time when I did this, a friend read the first few lines, rolled her eyes and called my book romantic garbage, only not in G-rated language. We then wrote angry notes back and forth to each other in which she told me that she didn’t think I had the talent to be an author. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to convince that her my work was original and creative, which was stupid for a lot of reasons.

When I couldn’t convince her of my talent, I vowed that I would prove her wrong some day, and that I would never show anyone my work ever again.

This was my first tussle with criticism. It was a deep wound that took years to heal, but I’m very grateful for it now.

While I did eventually start showing people my writing, I was much smarter about who I chose and my own motivations. I wait until I have done several rounds of edits, and I wait until I truly want to know what someone else thinks of it. 

The other thing I’ll point out is that growing defensive when someone criticizes our writing is as normal as breathing. We all do it. I kept trying to tell my friend all the reasons she was wrong, and that was a waste of time. Glennon Doyle Melton says it this way in her fabulous article Three Rules for Surviving a Creative Life, “Art is a big girl. Bigger than we are. So for eight years, I have never spent my limited time or energy defending a piece of my writing. Even when my work is misunderstood, even when I’ve felt attacked, even when I wanted to fire back at somebody so bad that my fingers ached and I had to take deep breaths—I didn’t sit down and argue.”

I have a long way to go still, but I’m getting better at not trying to be my art’s lawyer or armed guard.

Jill Williamson
It probably hasn’t evolved enough. I don’t set out to look at reviews anymore. But people constantly tag me to come and read the reviews they wrote of my books, and my publisher will email me professional reviews from Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal, so it’s impossible not to read those. I have learned to read criticism with a critical eye. I can tell right away if someone has an agenda, and those reviews I pretty much ignore. I scan for both positive and negative information and try and quickly discern what, if anything, I need to take from it. And I try and focus on the person behind the review. Life is all about relationships, so I try to comment or like those reviews in which people sought me out. And if someone tagged me and wrote a mean review, I ignore it. Everyone has the right to free speech, and people use that well. But there is no law that says we need to stand on a bow and let people pelt us with tomatoes. We can turn our backs and walk away with our heads held high. And we can also choose not to engage, because it does no good at all to argue with a reviewer or try and defend ourselves. The best we can do in those situations is to be silent.

Now it's your turn. Tell us, how do you respond to criticism? Has your response evolved throughout your journey?

27 comments:

  1. I don't get much criticism, and when I do it's because I've written a controversial post and get labeled by someone who doesn't agree with me. When I was really young and just starting to get serious about my writing, I had a similar experience to Stephanie's. it was mildly awful. So now I just kind of don't show people what I've written XD

    I've also never finished a second draft, so there's that.

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    1. I love your controversial posts. You speak truth and truth shouldn't be controversial. Somehow, even truth gets called opinion.

      I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I think you're wonderful at writing posts. And I'm sure your writing for books is amazing. :D

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    2. Yeah, I don't let anyone see my first drafts anymore... So sorry you've had some bad experiences. :( It saddens me when people can't be kinder with their opinions. It's a bad reflection on them.

      -Ann

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  2. With my writing, I've never received criticism. I get too nervous to show anyone my writing. I recently wrote a short story for a contest on another blog and showed it to my mom first. It was about my feelings with anxiety and hope for tomorrow.

    It was nerve wracking to show my mom because I was vulnerable to how I felt. I submitted the story after a few polishing of some words and my piece was shown. Only two entered, but it felt amazing to show my work.

    I've never opened myself to criticism yet, but I assume I'll be terrible at it at first. Hopefully I'll warm up to it as long as I have nice people who genuinely care about me read my work.

    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. If you give it to someone you trust to be gentle with their honesty, and you have a mindset to take their feedback as helpful and not personal, that's half the battle, I think.

      -Ann

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    2. Absolutely correct. Thank you for the reminder because I think I take things waaayyy to personally. :D

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    3. Aww. Thanks, Faith. I still sometimes feel like my writing is inadequate. But I'm really glad you liked it. :)

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  3. I don't know how I would handle criticism because I've never had any. I've always just shown stuff to my Mom (who of course says it's good no matter what) and now my Grandmother. She says that it's really good and I've done a good job, so I don't know. I would hope I would handle it well, though.

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    1. Sounds like you've already taken brave steps in sharing with your family. It's hard being vulnerable, even if you know they'll be kind.

      Maybe the next step for you would be to ask your mom and grandma if they see any areas they think could be improved. That way you're still with familiar people who love you, but you're opening yourself up a little more for criticism, even if it's just in the mindset.

      That's merely a suggestion on what worked for me. :)

      -Ann

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    2. Thanks for the suggestion, Ann :)

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  4. After my first criticism from a kindly source, I cried and vowed to forget the whole writing business. The very next day I was up and writing, so obviously I lied to myself. :p

    Editing is my favorite stage of writing, so I actually enjoy feedback now, as long as it's well-intentioned. I critique other writers, and I know that constructive criticism isn't a personal attack but rather a desire to help someone else improve. When you take it in the spirit it is given, it's far less daunting.

    That's not to say sometimes it doesn't hurt. I've had some criticism that wasn't helpful or seemed mean-spirited. But those are pretty easy to spot. Guess I'm used to the idea you'll never please everybody when it comes to subjective art, so why try?

    -Ann

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    1. I secretly like editing as well, but I have to wait a while after writing the draft to do it or I will scrap everything and start over. That's just how I am.

      Finding genuine people helps, I would think. You know they are trying to help you and not hurt you. :D

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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  5. I really struggled with criticism, Stephanie's experience was one that I had repeated over and over again with my siblings and I always madly defended myself. But they were honestly right...that criticism pushed me forward to be determined and strive to polish my writing. But not before A LOT of stubborn denial and feelings of insecurity and anger. Also when I see people honestly review someone else's work...I get ideas and corrections for my own story...but I agree with Jill, you can't focus too much on the haters. You have to hold your own and do the best you can.

    Great Post!

    Anna - www.worldthroughherheart.blogspot.com

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    1. Exactly! We have to take critisim as something to help, not hinder, our skills.
      Nice to see you here, Anna! :D

      iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    2. Yes! At the end of the day, the writing is still Yours, and first and foremost you must make it true to yourself and keep your head up. Good for you for pushing past the pain, and persevering. :)

      -Ann

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    3. That's so true you guys! Thanks for the enouragement :D <3
      I'm so glad I finally found GTW, it's a great place!!!

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    4. whoops *encouragement

      xD it's typo day

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    5. Yes! I've been making so many typos. *shakes head*
      XD

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  6. My first real brush with constructive criticism brought me to tears. Since then I've grown a thicker skin! Like Ann, I actually like editing, so I get excited when I receive feedback that can help me improve. It's still hard to swallow sometimes, especially when it means huge changes to a story I've already worked hard on (there's always the "ugh, you mean I have to do MORE work?" reaction), but after I mull it over, I'm usually good to go.

    What I find harder is reading blog posts/reviews that attack a trope or technique I've used, or articles that either provide a dose of honest reality or downright negative advice. Those can get under my skin and make me doubt what I'm doing. Sometimes those sources are right, and I just need time to adjust my perception. Sometime they're just voices of discouragement, so I need to shut them out and redirect my attention to what I know to be true--that God gave me the desire to write. And if he gave me that, he aims to use it!

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    1. I really feel you on that Tracey, every single thing you said was so relatable. There's so much negativity mixed into the good and sometimes it's tough not to pick up on that...

      Anna | www.worldthroughherheart.blogspot.com

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    2. It IS easy to let the negativity of cynical reviewers or really blunt advice-givers to get to you. And sometimes I do NEED a good shake from reality (I saw a quote the other day that said something along the lines of, "I'd rather be hurt by the truth than comforted by lies"), but oftentimes it's just toxic.

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    3. I really do agree with you on that! But having community and people who support you makes it so much more encouraging...it was not until I opened up my book to my alpha readers for criticism that I realized I had things to correct but people liked my writing and if I put enough work in, I could definitely be successful.

      One question I go by is this... "If the whole world rejected this, would I still have faith in it and love it?" and if the answer is yes then that means it's worth it, in fact more than worth it.

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    4. So true! I've been greatly encouraged by my writing buddies and beta readers. Sounds like you have a great perspective on the whole thing. :)

      Oh, now that's a fantastic question to ask yourself! Really thought-provoking. I'll be chewing on that for a while...

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  7. The first time my writing was criticized it hurt. I had mentally prepared myself, but it didn't help as much as I thought it would. I actually printed off the email and use it as a guideline. The person who gave it to me also gave me tips on how to better my story. Getting criticism for your writing is never easy unless your in the mindset that they aren't doing it to hurt your feelings. When we ask for criticism, we have to be able to see it for what it really is!

    When you get criticism, write down what they said and go back to it. Oftentimes we hear it, but it doesn't stay with us. When we are told, "This isn't very good" or "It needs some work", ask them why and write down what they say. IF we're honest with ourselves, we know that the problem won't be fixed overnight. So go back and review what they said to have it always fresh in your mind.

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  8. It hurts like someone's stabbing me with a passion, but then I get over it. I haven't had people who absolutely HATE my work, though. I did get disappointed and felt like I'd never make it into the author world.
    Of course you want to have perfect work, but there will be haters out there and people who just don't like your work. Sadly, it happens, but the ones who really understand what you're saying and are honest, but kind, are the ones who really make an impression on you. I don't always like criticism, but it comes with being a writer. I wouldn't like it if people read my work and told me everything was awesome just to spare my feelings. That wouldn't help me one bit. I would never grow in my writing. I would always just ignore those who are truly trying to help me and my writing. I don't want that to ever happen.
    Aw, Stephanie. Poor thing. Your friend was a bit harsh. She could have said what she felt she needed to without saying you didn't have enough talent to be an author. I hate that happened for you.

    My response has evolved, though, over time. Anyway, I love kind criticism. I learn and figure out what needs changing or needs to be made clear, but aren't hurt deeply in the process. Though, I do get stubborn at times and I need to work on that. ;)

    God Bless!

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