Criticism comes in two forms, constructive and destructive, and it’s not very difficult to tell them apart: constructive criticism will be helpful, honest, and ultimately positive, while destructive criticism will belittle and attempt to humiliate.
Regardless of its form, you should always consider the following when dealing with criticism:
- You (and your writing) are not perfect. There will always be things you could have done better — not that anyone needs to tell you that.
- People have different tastes. Criticism is subjective.
- You don’t always need to listen. No one is always right.
Having work criticized can be difficult, but it’s truly an exercise in perception: criticism can only negatively affect you if you allow it to.
It’s not a monster — it can’t physically harm you. It can’t gnaw your limbs off, put them in freezer bags and save them for tomorrow night’s science experiment at the Twin Pines Mall parking lot. It’s only as bad as you make it.
Everyone’s a critic
Here are some easy tips for taking criticism:
Listen. Just as you shouldn’t gloss over your own criticisms while critiquing a work, you shouldn’t ignore the good advice of others. Separate it from the bad, and remember that it’s valuable to hear the opinions of those who may be viewing your work for the first time. There’s usually something to be gained, even from negative criticism.
Relax. It’s easy to get your feelings hurt, but fearing criticism is, in my opinion, one of those irrational fears that does nothing more than hinder your progress as an individual. Constructive criticism will be aimed toward your work, not you, and it’s only meant to help you improve. Destructive criticism, on the other hand, is something you should never waste your time worrying about.
Don’t argue. Don’t take it personally. Most people are just trying to help, and even though there are many trolls out there (both online and off), you should never enter into an argument about your work. Don’t try to defend it — if you don’t like the criticism, say “Thank you” and leave it at that.
Whoa. That was easy. Maybe too easy — in truth, it’s easier said than done. Learning to effectively take criticism and use it to your advantage isn’t something you can do over night. It takes time, but if you’re in any creative vocation (or aiming for one), it’s a necessary skill.
That’s right: a skill.