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Criticism – When to take it and who to take it from

crit·i·cismˈkridəˌsizəm/

noun

  1. 1.the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.“he received a lot of criticism”synonyms:censure, condemnation,denunciation, disapproval, disparagement, opprobrium,fault-finding, attack, broadside, stricture,recrimination; More
  2. 2.the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.“alternative methods of criticism supported by well-developed literary theories”synonyms:evaluation, assessment, appraisal,analysis, judgment; More

Good afternoon, Kids.

Let’s talk about criticism. 

It sucks… in all of its shining forms it sucks. Because either your critic is being a dick and offering feedback you can’t use or your critic is being helpful but also pointing out parts of your project that need work.

So either way, it sucks. Either way you’re second-guessing and self-doubting yourself. Either way you might be a little down. 

Some forms are worse than others, so the best thing you can do as a writer is to protect yourself from all criticism that isn’t constructive. 

Constructive criticism – comes from someone who is experienced and genuinely interested in helping you better your project

Destructive criticism – comes from someone whose sole intention is to hurt your feelings

Nonsensical criticism – this critic makes no sense and hates your work for no reason, also likely this person’s at a fifth grade sleepover and just got done prank-calling his step-sister

Malicious criticism – this critic is hot off a bad mood, taking their shit out on you and/or want to be you 

Really fucking stupid criticism – the kind that you read and your head almost falls off your shoulders because human kind has really hit a low point 

If you are reading this, it is likely that you have a flaming red target on your back. Most creative people do, especially those who are valiantly putting their work out into the world. 

Brief hiatus while I say to you: Thank you for putting your work out into the world. Never stop expressing yourself through creativity.

See the things is, you’re special. And people know that. Every person who has given up their passion to slump into some form of a safety-net career is going to resent you. Watch out for this person, he or she is MALICIOUS. He wants you to be just as miserable as he is in his mind-numbing 9-5.

Creative people are prone to self-doubting, second-guessing, future-based thinking, the like. Don’t allow negative criticism to take away from any and all forward movement you have made in your career.

The issue with criticism is… everyone is a critic.

The world is full of critics.

I’m a critic, you’re a critic, your neighbor is a critic, even your dog is a critic. I swear to god sometimes I think even the palm trees outside my door are critics.

So how do you know which critic is reliable?

You don’t! A lot of it is based solely on gut instinct. But remember this: if you hate something that somebody says so much, remind yourself that criticism is based SOLELY on personal perception. It’s an opinion. One of the billions on this planet. 

Constructive criticism is something you want. If you’re unsure about the criticism you’re receiving and wondering if it is constructive, think about applying it to your project and ask yourself if it really betters what you had already. If  you’re still confused, ask a friend or a CP (critique partner). If you’re still unsure after that, it’s likely it’s not constructive. 

Most of the constructive criticism I’ve received has induced a sort of Pavlovian response. I literally start jumping around because I can tell that it’s just what my project needs.

Who to take it from:

Well, not from your mom.

I know you love the gal, but she still thinks you can’t put a comma before the word “and.”

True story.

  • Literary agents – if they actually offer you a few words of advice after you queried… that is an AMAZING sign. If their advice comes off sounding anything but professional, that is a bad sign. Don’t take that advice
  • Your trusted Critique Partner
  • Writers in your genre – subjective, some of these writers are still gonna be dicks
  • Readers of your genre – subjective, readers are opinionated and likely to respond best to published material

In all honestly, there aren’t a lot of people you should accept criticism from. REMEMBER THIS.

Who NOT to take it from:

  • Psychopaths who don’t know they’re psychopaths
  • Randoms – think of that idiot who drove past you at some point in your life, stuck his or her head out the passenger window, and screamed “Ew”
  • Mis-guided, revamped Mean Girls who are stuck in the early 2000s, wear pink on Wednesdays, and still readSeventeen Magazine
  • ANYBODY who thought the world was going to end in Y2K or 2012 – this person is clearly clueless
  • People who DON’T READ YOUR GENRE and say stuff like “I hate this concept”

Well no fucking shit you hate my concept, you read The Duff Fanfiction, if you liked my Literary Women’s Fiction I would be really fucking disturbed.

  • People who DON’T READ AT ALL

Oh, you don’t like my book? That’s probably because your Myspace “Favorite Books” section says “lol what is a book”

  • People who don’t take criticism well – I’m talking that one bitch that begged you to read and offer feedback on her first ten pages so you did and then she sent you a fucking email back in which she defends every. little. thing. that you suggested 

Because that’s why I did it. So I could argue with you about it. News flash; I don’t care THAT much.

  • People who call contests that help writers “Self-Congratulatory Hashtag Wankfests” – WHAT. THE. FUCK. Those contests are there to help the struggling writer because querying is FUCKING HARD.
  • People who think criticism means “saying it like it is”

Lol. K. Go back to your frathouse.

  • People who are having a terrible day

Do not take criticism, under any circumstance, from someone who is in a bad mood. I mean it. Their temporal lobe is malfunctioning

  • Failed writers who have given up – this one should be obvious. 
  • Anybody plagued with fanatical jealousy
  • Twitter trolls
  • Somebody who has ZERO experience in the your respective industry

When to take it:

You don’t have to take it all. That’s the thing you need to get into your head. Just because one person says your word count is too high doesn’t mean that the next person won’t say, in my opinion that word count is perfect. Literary agents are subjective in every sense of the word. Some don’t want work over 90K but still accept fantasy, which is notoriously known for being upwards of 120K.

Some people are going to say, listen your first scene is completely surplus and some others are going to say, god this first scene is amazing. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE ANY OF IT. So don’t get bent out of shape. That person has that opinion, I guarantee fifty percent of the people on your street have that opinion. 

You are allowed to believe in your project, you are allowed to stand up for the parts of your project that you love and your editor hates. It’s all based on perception, and if we didn’t stand up for ourselves, we would lose our voice. 

But you should learn to take it, especially when it is given to you from someone who wants to help you, from someone who has taken on your project as their own with the conscious thought, “I can help this person get one step closer to their dreams.”

If you wonder about the person’s motives, don’t trust the person, or second-guess working with someone, it’s better to cut them loose than to allow them to rain on your parade. 

If it’s not obvious it’s probably not constructive. But TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCTS PEOPLE. BE INTUITIVE. 

How to give it:

Get to your point. But don’t do it abrasively. You want to help this person not scar them for life. The thing is, we all need to admire the goodness in criticism, and thank those who give it to us constructively. 

If you’re offering criticism on a project, it’s always great to point out the things you love about it, too. You want to give criticism with the intention of helping the writer get closer to publication. If you hate their work so terribly much, simply say, “this project isn’t for me, but thank you letting me look it over.” Lashing out at a creative person will serve no purpose but to introvert them and their project. You want this person to feel good about sharing their work, so best not to rip them to shreds when they do. 

Remember, you may have an opinion that you think highly of, but it is also just that–an opinion. And even though you really believe that this person could benefit from your opinion, if they’re not responding, don’t shove it down their throat. 

Say what you need to say, but do it kindly. Do it via email where others can’t see. Criticizing a writer’s work in the public eye isn’t very constructive, it’s traumatizing and I can promise that the writing community will rally behind the person you attack. 

How to apply it:

Don’t feel pressured to apply criticism you REALLY don’t believe in. Not a lot of people say that. It’s always “learn how to take criticism” and “get thicker skin.” Yes, all important things. But believe in yourself and your project enough to have the underrated privilege of being selective. It’s okay to be selective, it’s okay to defend parts of your project. Thank the person that gave you the criticism and move along. 

It’s always good to get a second opinion. If you don’t know whether to apply it or not, ask somebody else, hey this person said this about my book, what do you think? If they disagree with the person, best to just leave it how it is. 

Only apply constructive criticism to your project if you believe it can honestly benefit. Don’t cave in and let the project out of your site completely because you worry that you’re not being receptive. Know yourself well enough to wade through the good and the bad and only accept the best of the best.

Believe in yourself and fuck the haters.

It’s been a pleasure kids,

Charlee

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