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.
Here's the thing: I have really bad self-esteem. In basis, due to various acts by various people and to my own nature, I've gone through all kinds of unhappy mental problems mostly centering around 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 not so great about taking criticism, and I'm also a really jealous-type 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.)
Basically, in day to day life, I tend to internalize criticism in an unhealthy way, or to get kind of petty (and jealous). It's an ongoing problem, but I'm working on it.
When it comes to talking about my writing, however, I'm actually pretty good at taking critique. That seems illogical, right? Writing is my greatest passion and the most important thing in the world to me. You'd think it'd be the most sensitive topic: but see, that's actually why I'm better at taking critique there. To be fair, 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 going up against. As soon as I started sending out to people, I was prepared.
Because 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. And I sure as heck wasn't going to let it push me back, because you know what else I am? Stubborn. (Oh, and, I'm a professional, too. But I'm stubborn first and foremost.)
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 ticked me off. That's not genuine critique, so I had a right to be angry, I think.
I also, as you all know from a recent post, have readers who help critique me, and a lot of the time, that stuff hurts my heart. But what upsets me then usually isn't the getting critiqued part. I don't really take it personally; I'm good at refraining from calling myself a "bad writer" for having made a mistake. What actually makes me upset is that I'm scared I won't be able to figure out how in the heck to fix the points they made. 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 don'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 the 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 did anticipate 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 that. 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.
Thanks for reading, guys, and come back next time for a post on idea generators.
What are your experiences with taking critique?
Images via clipart.com and plywoodpeople.com.
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