Today I thought I'd talk a bit about taking criticism, since that's not only a huge thing in art-related fields such as novel-writing, but in life as a whole. I've written a post before about rejection, so this is a natural follow-up.
I have really bad self-esteem. Due to various acts by various people and due to my own nature, I've gone through all kinds of unhappy mental problems mostly centering around this low self-confidence. I've been going to counseling for not quite a year now trying to work through all my issues. So in real life, I'm easily hurt by criticism, and I'm also a really jealous person.
(To be fair, there's a difference between criticism and cruelty, and unfortunately, more often than not, I've received cruelty. But it affects the way I react to genuine criticism, too. In day-to-day life, I tend to internalize criticism in an unhealthy way or to get kind of jealous and petty. It's an ongoing problem, but I'm working on it.)
When it comes to my writing, however, I'm actually pretty good at taking critique. That seems illogical, right? Writing is my greatest passion. You'd think, as it's the most important thing to me, it'd be the most sensitive topic. It's true that I wasn't prepared the first time I got critique, which is how I ended up deleting the first novel I ever wrote, but after that, I knew what I was up against, and that's made all the difference. As soon as I started sending out to people, I was prepared.
This is an art field, and in art fields, you get a lot of junk thrown at you. I knew I'd be rejected. I knew I'd be critiqued. I sure as heck wasn't going to let it keep me from achieving my dreams, because you know what else I am? Stubborn. (Oh, and, I'm a professional, too. But the stubbornness is more of the point here.)
I've gotten lots of critique that's upset me. When I started sending out, I got some flack for being as young as I was, which angered me. That's not genuine critique, so I had a right to be upset, I think. I also, as you all know from a recent post, have readers who critique me, and a lot of the time, that stuff hurts my heart. But it's not personal, really; I get upset mostly because I'm afraid I won't be able to figure out how in the heck to fix the issues they pointed out. I've been known to sit at the dinner table crying because someone made a very good point about something illogical in my work and I didn't know how to take care of the problem--but I always find a solution eventually, and as soon as I do, I'm not upset anymore. Actually, I'm usually kind of excited. More writing! Yay!
Ultimately, writing is all about critique, and that's why it's easier for me to take it. Recently, I'll admit, I've struggled. I'm about to hit the magical 100 rejections, and I never anticipated getting to that kind of a number. The more rejections I get these days, the more panicky I become. But I'm keeping all that panic at bay because I have to. I think one of the most important things that artists can learn is how to deal with criticism and rejection because you have to be professional, you have to be dedicated, and you have to be ready to make the changes necessary to become better. Even when it hurts.
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