Criticism and the Writer

Here's a touchy topic: how do you, as a writer, handle criticism. The answer is: as gracefully as possible.

But the truth of the matter is, there are moments that are going to get the best of you. Such as:
1) When your editor tells you he/she hates how you've written your main character.
2) When you get an email or review from someone who says their 3-year-old could have written a better novel.
3) When someone who doesn't seem to have anything better to do harps on a tiny mistake you made regarding research in an article or other work.

The list could go on and on. And the reason why it can be hard to stay cool in these circumstances is that your writing is an extension of yourself. It's your emotions and your creativity put down on paper; hopefully your soul exposed for all the world to see.

Which leaves you open to attack because you have chosen to present yourself in a public way.

So what can you do when you begin to face the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"? Unfortunately in today's society you don't have the luxury of being a brooding artist who can fling mud in your attacker's face. Try a few of these ideas instead:

1) Consider the source. Unless this person is a New York Times bestselling author, a stellar agent or an editor whose opinion you've come to trust, their opinion is just that...an opinion. Don't rush out and rewrite anything just because one person tells you it stinks. Instead, try and have a group of peers in the industry who can give you honest feedback.

2) Consider their motivation. A recent survey states that over 80% of Americans have a dream of writing a book. So most likely you're dealing with a disgruntled wannabe author who possibly had the same idea for a book but has been trumped by you. Go easy on them.

3) Consider their feedback. All right. Here's one that few of us want to face. Are they right? If several people have given you feedback of a similar nature, you may want to accept that something isn't adding up right. And since we're trying to be open to improving our craft, look at their advice for what it's worth. If it has some validity, use it. If you still think it's a low blow, chuck it.