As long-time readers of my blog can tell you, I’ve been writing for a long time. Over the years, I’ve been through the school of hard knocks when it comes to my writing and criticism. I’ve been dragged through the wringer and I’ve been praised for my brilliance. I’ve run the gamut of empty platitudes parroted by my friends in an effort to appear supportive. I should have a t-shirt: I survived criticism, I’m still writing. And all I got was a cotton shirt.
If anything, I’m living proof that you can take the worst criticism imaginable and use it to your advantage. Use it to empower your writing, instead of tear it down. Even if all someone says is “You suck!” — take that and use it, galvanize yourself with it and make a goal to prove them wrong. Far too often in writing communities and groups that I’m part of writers seem to only want to hear good things about their work; they want to be patronized, given a pat on the head, and told that they have done a good thing. I find it hard to take writers like this seriously. No writer in their right mind wants to hear only the good they’ve done. I certainly don’t.
Then again, I have been prepared for hard criticism for years. There is very little the world-at-large can say to me that I would find offensive. Even in the worst criticism, I have learned to glean things that might be important. This is something Suzanna Reeves and I have spoken about numerous times during our writing meet-ups every week. Every criticism has its use. Even in the vitriol of the worst detractor of your work, there is something useful to be found. There are writers I’ve come across, though, that aren’t mentally or emotionally prepared for these kinds of eventualities. If you aren’t prepared to take on all kinds of criticism of your work, then you are not prepared to face the reality of the world as a writer.
A writer must thicken their skin to survive and certainly to publish. We cannot afford to be naive about our craft. Everyone will not love us, but everyone will not hate us either. We must be prepared for both, because we will come across both. It’s inevitable.
More importantly, we need to surround ourselves with people who will support what we do. I’m not just talking about our friends and family — although they are important — I’m talking about people who will be completely honest and real with us. People who aren’t afraid to give us the bad with the good. If we truly desire to improve as writers, we can’t cloister ourselves in little bubbles of positive reviews, we achieve nothing in doing so. A writer grows through all the feedback they are given. If a writer doesn’t grow, then a writer ceases to push beyond their limit to achieve greater things. Don’t settle for mediocrity.