Criticism Sucks, but the Alternative Is Worse

May 16, 2012

When we’re writing to ultimately please other people, we need thick skins and open minds. The thick skins help us to withstand the barbs thrown in our direction—you’re heroine is un-relatable, you’re hero is too perfect, you’re story is too depressing, you’re writing is too cliché (and then there are the scathing reviews once we’re published). The open minds help us to understand why someone would say such things in the first place, and eventually we can choose to make changes to our manuscripts based on the feedback. None of this is easy.

But what’s the alternative?

I’ve thought about writing solely for my entertainment and the joy of a few family members and friends. Chances are these people wouldn’t tell me if they hated something I wrote, and they don’t have the experience to critique my manuscripts with critical eyes toward goal, motivation and conflict or with the current market in mind. Still, they’d be warm-blooded readers other than me.

Is that enough?

I’ve thought about self-publishing and reaching more readers. But when I dissect this choice, for me, I realize it’s a kneejerk reaction to my work being rejected. I’m not saying I won’t ever self-publish. I’m saying that whether or not I self-publish, my work needs to be criticized by someone other than me before it’s released to the world. I’m not objective enough to be the sole set of eyes.

So I’m stuck on this wheel, where I write as I climb, and when I put my work in front of people qualified to give a technical opinion, I fall—hard. Up and down. Up and down. Over and over again.

Why do we do it?

We want to be loved. We want our writing to be celebrated. We have something to say. Fill in the blank. The reasons are many.

Becoming our best writing selves is nearly impossible without honest feedback (criticism). If friends and beta readers gush about the wonderful parts of our stories and only glaze over a small negative or two, they’re not doing us any favors.  (Stroking our egos won’t sell books.)

We can do this. We can write what’s in our hearts and heads, send it out for review by people we trust, and handle the criticism. The criticism will make us better. Better books sell. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?



2 Responses to “Criticism Sucks, but the Alternative Is Worse”

  1. taristhread Says:

    We definitely need constructive criticism to reach our goals, not always easy for sensitive people, I’ve been told I’m a little too sensitive, but somehow I’m able to take it about my writing, which is so personal….don’t know why….

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