As writers, we spend a lot of time alone, pouring our hearts onto the page. But if we want to produce the very best work that you can, this isn’t enough. To truly make our work the best it can be, we need fresh eyes. We need to show our work to others willing to pick up that loathed red pen and critique our writing.
Most writers know this, but a lot of us still avoid it like the plague. Who wants to hear their own work get blasted? Fortunately, being receptive to criticism is a skill that you can develop. It always stings a little, but I’ve got three steps that have helped me learn to cope better:
1. Choose critique partners you trust.
Don’t let just anyone let their pen loose on your beloved drafts. For feedback you’ll respect, only share it with people you trust.
There’s two kinds of trust I look for. First, be sure these are people who you trust to have your best interests in mind—don’t pick competitive writers who might want to cut you down, for example. And don’t pick people who will say your work is wonderful just to keep you happy, either—your mom may not the person for this job.
It also means choosing people whose writing sensibility you trust. If you’re a Tolstoy, a Hemingway might not the person to get feedback from. Choose people who know the craft and will appreciate your style.
2. Believe in yourself.
You seek out critiques to improve your writing. Implicit to that statement is the belief that you are capable of improving your writing. Simply by seeking a critique, you are exposing confidence in yourself. Never forget this!
When I find myself fearing a critique or despairing over feedback, it’s because I lose sight of my belief that I am a capable writer. All I’m hearing in the feedback is reasons why my work isn’t good enough. But deep down, the confidence is still there. Remembering other times feedback helped me improve helps me remember that I believe in myself.
3. Give it a try.
You may not agree with all the feedback you get. That’s okay! No one knows your work as well as you do, and that makes you the expert. But don’t dismiss a critique based on a gut reaction. First, give it a try.
Sometimes we simply get so deep within our own concept that we can’t see outside of it, no matter how good the advice. So before writing off a critique, open up a fresh document, copy and paste in the scene in question, and give that feedback the old college try. You might surprise yourself—I know I have many times.
With these steps, you can have a better critique experience and get more from the feedback you receive. And remember, practice makes perfect—okay fine, we may never be perfect (after all, that’s why we get critiques). But the more you expose your work to critique, the better you will get at accepting it without feeling hurt. And the better we’re able to listen to feedback, the better writers we can become.
How about you? Do you like to critique other writers? Do you like it when your writing is critiqued?
Let’s prove that this is a trustworthy community, where writers can receive helpful, honest feedback. Today, share a small segment (3 to 4 paragraphs) of something you wrote recently.
Then, spend some critiquing a few pieces by your fellow writers, giving specific feedback about what you liked, what you didn’t, and why.