As an author, you will have to deal with harsh criticism at some point. Whether it’s a rejection letter from a publisher you had high hopes for or negative comments in literary forums on the internet. There will always be people who think your text is terrible. And others who appreciate it. But who has the power to really judge your work other than yourself? And who do you allow to have that power over you? Woody Allen once said he didn’t read reviews at all because if he responded positively to the good reviews, he would have to acknowledge the negative ones as well. So what are the best tips for dealing with criticism as a writer?
Remember that not all criticism is the same
It’s important to distinguish between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism is when someone identifies a problem in your text and suggests how to improve it. Destructive criticism, on the other hand, is purely negative and offers no solution. Recognizing and appreciating constructive criticism is important because it can help you improve your text. However, you should also keep in mind that there are different understandings of what literature should actually achieve. Do the people who “improve” your texts really want the same thing as you?
Some author once said that he would take constructive criticism as an indication that something was still wrong with his text. He would then take another close look at these passages and consider whether he had any ideas for improvement. However, he would not accept the suggestions for improvement as a matter of principle, as nobody but himself can write authentically like himself.
Destructive criticism, on the other hand, should be completely ignored as it has no value. It isn’t even written for you, but to stroke the ego of the critic who thinks he can rise above you. Don’t get involved in his ego games!
Respond with decency
It’s normal for us to defend ourselves when someone criticizes us. However, the question is whether this helps anyone. I know authors who try to explain to critics in long private letters why they wrote their texts exactly the way they did. I also regularly see authors defending their work at length in online comments. But I doubt that even one reader will change their mind because of such self-justification. On the contrary, it gives the impression that you are stiff-necked and unable to deal with criticism.
It is also never helpful to react with anger. Remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that not everyone can like your text. Responding briefly and kindly to criticism can help you build a reputation as a mature and professional writer. But if possible, refrain from discussing the content. The only exception I would make here would be criticism from a mentor or a loyal beta reader.
Focus on the positive
It’s easy to focus on the negative feedback you receive. But one negative comment can drag you down further than ten positive ones can lift your spirits. It’s simply human nature to take negative criticism to heart. But it’s just as important to focus on the positive. Appreciate the people who like your writing and the compliments you receive. These readers are your target audience.
Never forget that only very few authors are equally appreciated by everyone. Once you have found the niche in which you want to place your texts, first check every criticism to see if the critic doesn’t want to drive you out of this niche and would rather see you somewhere else entirely. It is important that you have confidence in yourself, your work and your vision.
Criticism can generate attention
Even negative reviews can make people take notice of a work. Curiosity and the desire to form your opinion can lead to readers discovering the book. Controversial opinions can also fuel public discussions, increasing interest in your work. People like to discuss different points of view, which can lead to higher public awareness. Therefore, see negative criticism as free advertising for you, even if it actually wants the exact opposite.
Dealing with criticism can be difficult, but it’s an important skill to develop. Remember that not all criticism is the same. If you distance yourself from your writing, you can’t take it personally; if you keep an open mind, you can improve your writing; if you respond with grace, you can open a dialog; and if you focus on the positive, you’ll stay motivated. Use these strategies to deal constructively with criticism, and above all, remember that your writing is valuable and has the power to influence other people.