Criticism is a hard pill to swallow. But just as it is important to give criticism constructively, it is important to receive criticism gracefully, even when you don’t ask for it. Because criticism can be your greatest catalyst for growth, here are some ideas for taking criticism gracefully and what to look for in criticism to help you improve your writing.
Tip 1: Look for the Kernel of Truth
If you feel like someone gave you unjust feedback, first try to find the kernel of truth in it before dismissing it. Oftentimes, people aren’t very good at articulating what they think in these situations. We can be blinded by the delivery and miss feedback we could use to improve our piece. I’ve been tempted multiple times to dismiss feedback from people in the past because I felt like their writing wasn’t up to par or I felt like they didn’t like me. But when I’ve required myself to analyze what they said, I have found at least one small thing I could use to improve my stories, even if I only learned they are not my audience.
Tip 2: Say “Thank You”
You will come across people who may be out there to gut you. Saying “thank you” for all criticism you receive, constructive and destructive, is a great way to disarm those who are looking to tear you down. Receiving criticism with grace can defuse enemies and maybe turn them into friends.
Tip 3: Take Everything with a Grain of Salt
As I mentioned in my blog post about giving critiques, writing is subjective and all critiques come from a place of opinion. Keep this in mind as you listen to what your writing group, critique partners, or potential critique partners have to say about your work. Take into consideration their background, their preferred genres, and their writing style. All these things influence how they look at your work, and you need to judge whether or not these influences will help them produce a good critique for your work.
Tip 4: Don’t Explain Away and Justify Your Work
Resist the temptation to defend, explain, or justify your work to a critique group or a critique partner. The purpose of receiving a critique is to see how your work stands on its own. The critiques you are receiving reflect what your work communicated to the reader and it is possible that your prose didn’t accomplish what you meant it to. You can’t be in every reader’s home, whispering to them what you mean as they read, and critiques will help you know what to fix.
Tip 5: Ask Clarifying Questions
When it seems like the feedback you recieve is way off or confusing, ask clarifying questions to find out where the person is coming from. If you can figure out why they came to the conclusions they did, you can target the places in your work that need help and revision. Make sure you understand as best as possible what your critics are saying before moving on.
Tip 6: Be Humble
Accepting criticism with humility is key. Nobody is a perfect writer. There will always be something you can do better and it is your responsibility to allow yourself to be shown where you can improve. Accepting criticism with humility will earn you credit as a writer and help you find use in all critiques you receive.
What is one piece of criticism you learned the most from? Let me know in the comments below!