On Taking Criticism….

So, apparently I have a lot to learn.  For starters, taking criticism.  I have to admit, I have never been good at accepting a sharp critique.  Anyone with me on that?  I could be wrong, but I think you have to be a really strong person to be able to allow someone to give you an honest opinion about something you really care about, and to be able to sincerely accept it with an open mind.  Sure it’s easy to receive judgement on something you could care less about, but when you have truly put your heart and soul into something, and someone doesn’t like it?  Well, it hurts.  It kind of feels like someone is bursting your bubble, or like someone decided to bring around a cloud to rain on your parade.  Now I know how Barbra felt.

Almost like she's saying, "Please, for the love, don't rain on my parade!!!"

Today, I got some critiques back from my classmates in a Writing For Young Adults class at the college I attend online.  I was anticipating the feedback all last weekend, because I knew that early this week I was going to get the verdict from my classmates.  The class is set up to be a workshop environment where each week a new student submits a few chapters from the novel they’re writing, and your fellow classmates honestly critique it.  Now, I probably set myself up for disaster because as some of the feedback started rolling in early Monday, I felt like nothing could bring me down.  I had some positive feedback, where one classmate even compared my writing to Judy Blume (which totally made my life, because I basically love her, and read all of her books growing up.)  I was feeling really confident, and even started fantasizing about the Pulitzer Prize that I might win one day.  Okay, so that’s really awkward, but if I’m honest, I think I did actually wonder at one point what the requirement for a Pulitzer Prize was.  Hello, delusional!

Later this afternoon I cheerfully signed on to the forum for the class to check if anymore feedback had come through on my novel, and BINGO, one new message.  Hooray!  I was extremely excited to receive the rest of my feedback, that would confirm my Pulitzer Prize writing future.  However, much to my chagrin, it was not positive at all, it was downright, devastating.  It was from a classmate, and she criticized everything about my piece.  This b*tch went cray cray on my baby (my novel) and destroyed everything in its path, from my use of parenthesis, to the main character whom she called “dry.”  P.S.  That character was basically modeled after moi, so I was a little offended.

I spent the next hour on the phone with my mother going off about her. I used an array of tactics to cut her down the same way in which she had done to me, (e.g. saying things to the effect of, “Hasn’t she ever heard of a prologue before?!  It’s like she’s never read a freaking book before!  She must read effing Harry Potter!” <–Btdubs, no offense to anyone who like the Potter-inator…I was just angry when I said that, and JK Rowling is amaze.)  So anyway, I basically just went off about it, until even I got sick of hearing myself talk.

After my rant was over, I thought about what I was really upset about.  I was let down.  I had a moment earlier in the week when I had received such positive responses that I felt like nothing could touch me.  My ego was hurt because someone didn’t like my work, and because I had put my full effort into it, she told me her honest opinion, and maybe some of what she said had some truth to it.  I retaliated by cutting her down to make myself feel better, but it didn’t make me feel better, it just made me feel worse.

It made me think of a quote that I once heard that says, “Whatever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.”  The part about congratulating yourself too much, is apparently the part that I need to take note of in the future, and obviously something I need to work on.

Also, something to remember for the next time…

I don’t know if accepting criticism will ever get easier for me, but I do know, I am going to work on it.  Apparently I haven’t exactly taken my own advice.  To those of you who have read, “Stuff I’ve Realized Recently,” well, you all know what I’m talking about.  Perhaps in some ways I really have stopped caring less about what people think since I’ve gotten older…However…

Maybe there are some things, no matter how old you are, what you proclaim to the world in a blog as gospel, or how much you say you don’t care what people think, are always going to sting and trigger something in that little place inside you, until you learn the right way to just Let. It. Go….

The End~

33 thoughts on “On Taking Criticism….

  1. I think if you pour your heart and soul into something, like your novel its OK to care what people think. It’s like having a child (which I don’t but I assume I’d feel this way)… If someone critiqued your child down to how they eat their food you would personally be offended, after all your pouring your heart and soul into raising said child. Your novel is no different. You are personally, and emotionally invested in it! I’m less offended by someone saying something about me negative than something I have put so much time and heart into. That’s just me though. I would have gone off about the Bia too!

    P.s. it sounds like she’s nuts, others raved and she dogged? What’s up with that. And she said the main character was dry like it was a bad thing. I live for dry! Sarcasm is my middle name.

    • It’s exactly like that. It was like my baby, and while I was writing it I was cracking myself up! So, for her to be, like, “It’s dry,” I was just like, Oh no she di-ent.

  2. Aw, boo on her! But I TOTALLY understand where you’re coming from… Feedback is hard and can suck big time if you’re not prepared or it isn’t done in the right way… Like, constructive criticism is one thing (and, man, I do not even take that well!) but ripping something apart is totally another. Especially something so personal as writing! Everyone is entitled to their opinion and there will never be anything in the history of ever that has universal appeal, so just remember that– take the good, take the helpful tips on improving things that you feel are important/necessary (after all, it is your story!), and ignore the rest. Easier said than done, obviously, but just keep reminding yourself of that!

    And you? Dry? As if! 😉

    • Haha! As if! So, I guess it was more on the constructive criticism side, but I probably just took it all personally. I tend to do that sometimes…;)

  3. Nice post and made me smile in the morning. Well Criticism is hard and yes I think ranting and bitching about is fine cause that clears all negativity and makes you concentrate on what next? The person who didn’t like what you wrote just gave her opinion on how she saw it and she might be some weird case but if it appealed to the majority of them, you did something right! Writing is personal and people have their own styles and tastes. There is no one who is a better writer than the other. Read this to understand that writing is a reflection of your soul – from Paulo Coelho’s Blog

    Writing as a spiritual activity
    Published on September 20, 2011 in News. 32 Comments Print Print

    While I was writing The Witch of Portobello, the main character Athena started to unfold in such an unexpected way thanks to its structure.
    It was as if I was chasing after her: I had no idea how her story would end but got really excited by the opportunities that aroused from the different perspectives.

    At one point in my book, the character of Nabeel Al Ehi teaches Athena the following:

    “Even a simple letter demands that we put all power into it that we have, as if we were to carve its meaning in hard stone.
    “Thus, when holy scripts find their place on paper, they also include the person’s soul.
    “Because the hand leading the line reflects the soul of the writer.”

    In this excerpt, he voices my view on writing. I regard writing as a spiritual activity.

    It’s the moment, when, in silence, I’m able to talk to myself, to connect to my soul. But you can apply that to any act performed with commitment, humility and love.

    Have a good day and you are a good writer! Keep Believing!

  4. Pingback: Criticism Hurts. Use it Wisely. | Fangirling Through Fiction

  5. I know how much it hurts when you get criticism and that pain and ache you feel deep in your chest takes a long time to pass. I think what you have to keep telling yourself is that it is people’s responses to your work and their opinions that help make great novels. Your novel needs other’s help. You need to know what your worth and don’t listen to it all, your gut knows best. But there is a lot of constructive words out there thats you will have to sift through the crap for and use it to perfect your work. Best of luck…. Keep strong and keep writing. Don’t let peoples words dictate your dreams just let them help you perfect them.

  6. Here’s the way you need to think about…people criticized Jesus, and he WAS and IS the perfect person! That helps me tremendously…in every situation!

  7. I know exactly how you feel and it is indeed hard to take criticism especially when it comes to the things you love doing the most. I am a singer and whenever I used to get bad criticism, it put me to tears! And it was ridiculous since most of the criticisms I got were always great or just constructive. But somehow the little destructive ones outweighed the good ones and ruined it all for me just because I wanted (or maybe expected) everyone to love my singing.
    I had to start realizing that my voice, my style or choices of songs may not be someone’s favorite and that it is ok. I still believe in myself, I still work hard at getting better and no matter how hard I work, there will always be flaws to criticise…flaws that can always be worked on and change for the better.
    So, my dear, screw the rest! I, and many others, love your writing! 🙂
    Awesome post!

    • Omg yes! I actually sing as well, and it’s true, its always the things you love the most that are harder to take feedback on. I was thinking today, that all of things I really enjoy doing are all things that involve creativity…doing hair, theater, writing…creative things require you to put a piece of yourself into it, and when you do, I think it’s easy to expect everyone to love it. You put your heart into it after all!

  8. I think, whenever you receive criticism, whether it’s constructive or destructive, you have to ask yourself which parts you truly agree with and not let the other parts bother you. I don’t know exactly what this person said but it sounds like she tore your writing to pieces… When it starts to feel like an attack, also remind yourself that it’s possible this person was having a bad day and was looking for someone to take it out on. Maybe she would have been kinder in her critique while still being honest as opposed to ripping it apart… I’ve heard many times that usually when someone is nasty to you, it’s usually not because of you but because of whatever they have going on that’s making them have a bad day… Take it all with a grain of salt!

  9. I know what you mean!

    When I was 14 I wrote a story for a school prize.

    My mum’s friend – an Authoress in her own right – read it and suggested I put it in for another competition as she thought it to be really good.

    It never made to to either because my dad destroyed my typewriter and made me burn the manuscript one page at a time to make it abudantly clear that it was utter crap.

    So, believe me, I know how you felt when your baby was cut to pieces and used as verbal toilet paper…

    Love and hugs!


  10. I think the way someone critiques you often says more about who they are than what you have written.
    If their critique was meant to be malicious what were they trying to accomplish? Were they trying to squash their own inadequacies?

    I think it is important to remember two things:
    1. Judy Blume had an editor
    2. You can only be hurt if you let someone hurt you

    • Umm…that is awesome advice, and why didn’t I think of that?! Judy Blume totally did have an editor! How’d I get so dense?! Ha! Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Hey, you don’t know me, but I’m a friend of Reagan’s which is how I found your awesome blog! And I just wanted to comment and say that the exact same thing happened to be me just two weeks ago! It was the worst. I was at a dance company audition which I thought went totally great! They gave me nothing but positive feedback, and even made sure I could be there for the first rehearsal! And to be watching for my acceptance email! I went home thinking I was a shoe-in and was literally on cloud-9. I even called people and told them I had gotten it. The next day, they gave out call-backs, and that they hadn’t told us they were going to! And, it was just for the people they were “on the fence about.” When I got the call back my heart sank, and I may have cried a little, or maybe even a lot. I realized that when they said I was “the freshest dancer in the place” they didn’t mean as a positive like “you’re a breath of fresh air,” they meant it like, we don’t know you as well as the other dancers, and you’re going to have to prove yourself. I felt soooo stupid.
    Moral of the story: I worked my a** off at that call-back, and made the company! So, even though you got that one negative feedback on your chapters, you can use it as fuel to motivate yourself to work even harder. And maybe you will get that Pulitzer someday! I sure as heck love reading your writing on this blog, you’re hilarious! I mean, where else could I read about someone straight up asking to keep a stranger’s headband at a subway! So funny. Keep up the good work 😉
    P.S. sorry for writing a novel. I promise I’m not a weirdo stalker.

    • Omg, Kat. First of all, thank you so much for reading. Second of all, I studied musical theater, so I also totally identify with your story! I have had countless auditions like that, and know exactly how you feel. Congrats on making the company, though! That is truly awesome! And P.S. I would never think you’re a stalker! I appreciate you reading my stuff! After all, I’m the one putting my life out there in the first place;)

  12. When I was in high school I wrote a column for the local newspaper with 40,000 subscribers. Every week, I poured my heart into those 500 words. And every other week? I got some biting emails from other teenagers that I finally realized were probably just jealous. Jealous that I was a good writer, that I was published, that I was getting paid. The horrible things they said HURT. I still think about them from time to time. But that little 500 word column for which I took much crap? Got me far. Because here I sit, working at that newspaper today. Copy editing and supporting myself.
    So whatever. Let that girl be jealous of your good writing and let her criticize. It’ll only make you stronger in the end.

  13. I read your post and all I could think of was Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City when she wrote that book and got a negative review and below was her quote.

    “Why is it that we only seem to believe the negative things people say about us, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary? A neighbor, a face, an ex-boyfriend can cancel out everything we thought was once true. Odd, but when it comes to life and love, why do we believe our worst reviews?”

    Stay fabulous and smart!

  14. Whenever a negative nancy rains on my parade, I always think about the Beatles. The head of Decca Records told The Beatles manager, “Guitar groups are on their way out.” Later they got signed by another record company and, well, you know the rest.

  15. I can totally relate, Sarah…being a Virgo, I can pick apart someone all day long but I cannot take criticism even if it is coming from a good place! It’s difficult to hear when you work so hard on something. Now, it sounds like this girl was just being a total B, but I try to remember that in most cases people are genuinely wanting to help! Don’t let that girl open the devil to putting DOUBT in your head (sounds extreme, but it’s so true lol). I love you and just from reading your blog, I think you are an amazing writer!

    PS–Who cares about parentheses placement? That’s what your editor will be for some day…DUH! 🙂

    • Omg, and that is me. I can pick someone else apart, but when it’s me? Oh, forget it! Thanks for the encouragement;)

      Hooray! I’m so happy you read my blog! Miss youuuuuuuu

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