Learning to Take Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism. We all need it. Otherwise, it would be much more difficult for us to be able to identify the weaknesses within our work, and we would fail to grow.

But how do we as writers learn to deal with the harsh reality that not everyone will enjoy our work?

If you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time in a writer’s group or forum, then you have probably already heard the phrase “writer’s need to grow thick skin.” As hard as this is to hear, it is true. Some people will love your work, others will hate it, and some will think that it is just okay. As hard as it is to realize that not everyone will enjoy your writing, you can take their criticism and use it to your advantage. We have all read at least one book that we disliked. Does this mean that the book was bad? No. In fact, the simple fact that it is published means that some people actually enjoyed it. It is the same with your own writing.

Some of the reasons that people may dislike a book are that they may think that some of the events seemed unrealistic, there was poor character development, or the book was over or underdeveloped. Whatever the reason was, you may hear some of these criticisms about your own writing. Instead of getting upset or thinking that you are a horrible writer, use their criticism to grow. You may consider asking friends, family or beta readers for details on what could be improved. You may even want to go back and reread your work with a more critical eye, or you may want to trunk your novel, a term often used by writers when they choose to put their writing away for a few months to a few years in order to be able to view it with fresh eyes.

In fact, I often hear that writers are too close to their work to often see all of the errors and weaknesses present. This is why it is common even for professional editors to need other editors to view their work. As writers, we are just not able to always see our own weaknesses. The great thing about criticism though, is that it helps to open our eyes to where we need to improve. Once we become aware that we have a certain weakness, we are more likely to start actively working to improve upon it. Because of this, what was once a weakness is more likely to become a strength over time, and we all want to become stronger writers, don’t we? After all, this will help us to improve in our careers, and better career performance often means greater success. So instead of looking at constructive criticism as the enemy, start seeing it for what it is, a way to improve.

The only possible way to become a better writer is to continue to write. So the next time someone passes along some constructive criticism in regard to your work, instead of taking it the wrong way, really look at your writing and contemplate how you can use their criticism to become the best writer that you possibly can.