Jeida's Gems 002: On Handling Criticism
Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could create characters, build worlds, frame stories, and then put them into the world without worrying about what people thought about them? It would be even more perfect if everything we wrote came out as perfectly as we imagine in our minds. Unfortunately, we don’t always get it right the first time. That’s why I have critique partners.
We need each other in order to become the best writers and storytellers. I bloom as a storyteller when other trusted writers critique my work. CPs tell you what’s working and when you're writing the dang thing! But what about when you miss the mark?
One of my CPs reviewed the first draft of my latest installment of HIM & HER. I thought it was pretty good, even started promoting it. Eager to hear her thoughts (because, clearly, she would agree, right?), I opened her notes and my face fell. Her first response was, “I’m not in love with it honestly.” Then, she followed up with a list of what wasn’t working. Initially, I was in my feelings, because I’m already hard on myself. Plus, no one enjoys hearing what’s wrong with their work. So, here’s how I am learning to handle criticism.
Writing is a muscle; you get better with practice. It doesn’t matter how eloquent your prose is, or how dynamic your characters are… there is always more to learn. So, what’s the first thing I told myself when I was faced with criticism?
Get over yourself, Jei! Get over the hurt feelings, get past the offense, get over yourself. I don’t mean to sound harsh or make light of the pain often associated with criticism. However, I had to remind myself that if I chose to sit in offense, puffed up in pride, I’d never see beyond myself to get back to what’s important. This leads me to my next point.
Think reader first
Once I chose humility and took the focus off of my bruised ego, I remembered who I should be focusing on: the reader. It doesn’t matter if I think the writing is good if it doesn’t resonate with my readers. The purpose of having critique partners is for them to assist you in telling the best story for your reader. We don’t write for ourselves—at least I don’t. I want readers to consume these stories and feel satisfied, entertained, and challenged by them. A critical eye will keep my work sharp so that what I’ve written best serves the reader.
I’ve checked myself, remembered my reader, so now I’m ready to refocus and rewrite. Now is the time to allow my Muse to retell the story. I’m finding that once I get to this stage, I have a new energy that makes the words sizzle on the page. Had I refused to invite my CPs into my work or to heed their advice, I don’t think I’d reach my fullest potential. They push me into deeper discovery in this world of storytelling. And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Producing the best stories that will resonate with readers.
Hopefully, the next time a critique partner, beta reader, or anyone else gives you good, constructive feedback, you’ll remember these tips and see it as a golden opportunity to be an even better rockstar than you already are!
Jeida K. Storey