writers have to be tough

Today I was on the receiving end of a tough review of my latest story. It was the kind of critique that can throw you into a spiral of depression where every dream you ever had about becoming a decent writer is shredded.

Even while I was on the cusp of the vortex, looking into the swirling depths of my failure, I knew that I would get over it. Because the only other alternative is to give up. And I’m not about to do that.

A short period later I read another review, this one more favourable, and more helpful, which disagreed with the first.

It’s a sharp reminder that personal tastes vary wildly from reader to reader, and you will never please everyone. What one person considers genius, another thinks is the illiterate ravings of a peasant throwing muck at a page.

Here’s what I do if I review a piece of writing:

  1. I stick to critiquing the writing, not the person.
  2. I try to find something positive to contribute.
  3. If I can’t find something useful to say then I don’t review the material.
  4. My criticism strives to be constructive, and I try to offer solutions and suggestions.
  5. I can only offer an opinion, and I can’t guarantee that it’s right.

Ultimately, I remember that there is a human being behind the writing.

Different people have different approaches, however.

I’ve learned not to take criticism personally. Even when it’s hard, I remember to create distance between me and my work.

I enjoy it when people offer insights that open up my fiction constructively in new and exciting ways. That energises me to tackle the piece again and make it better.

If I want my writing to improve, I have to put my feelings to one side and be objective about my work–no matter how gut-wrenchingly difficult it is at times. So, even if my feelings are battered, I’d prefer to get useful advice than none at all.