Developing a Healthy Relationship with Writing Critique

Important things you can do to improve your writing. Although it is true that not all critique is created equal, there is almost always something to glean from another’s response to your work. Let’s take a look at a few of the strategies you can utilize in order to get the most out of the critique you’re offered without losing conviction in your own voice as a writer. 

Approach critique with curiosity 
It can be easy to go immediately on the defensive when faced with criticism. As humans, we tend to feel misunderstood and hurt when others don’t respond well to a thing that we’ve created and are proud of. Yet as natural and forgivable as that stance is, it often results in a missed opportunity to learn something new. If an element of a critique that is being leveled against you strikes a particularly sharp note, that is likely because there is at least a partial truth to it. Instead of focusing on the discomfort it causes you, adopt a removed perspective that will allow you to engage with it from a place of curiosity rather than with the sole intention of defending yourself. 

Consider the critique you’ve provided in the past
As the saying goes, writers are often their own worst critic. But like any rule with its own set of exceptions, this is not always the case. In fact, when looking at the work of others, it can be easy to spot inconsistencies, push back on undeveloped storylines, or seek more fully realized characterisation. In some cases, a writer gets so involved with the story and their writing, that they take for granted some of the information the reader needs to truly get invested.

There’s a good chance you’ve noticed this in someone else’s work and have pointed it out. Yet, is it possible that you’ve also been guilty of the same tendency? By revisiting some of the feedback we’ve provided for others, we’re better able to understand the point of view from which the critique being leveled at our own work is coming from.

Apply the criticism to your work, not yourself
Your work as writers is a reflection of who you are and what matters to you, but that doesn’t mean that you should conflate it entirely with your personal identity. It can be easy to fall into the trap of taking all criticism as a personal and targeted attack, but this is very rarely the case. Every set of eyes that encounters your work will be doing so with its own pre-existing biases, preferences, and experiences. Remind yourself that receiving feedback is a function of being a writer and that the remarks are not intended to hurt you or offend you personally. 

Know when to draw the line 
All that being said, not all criticism is constructive or helpful. If you truly feel that you are being personally attacked or persecuted for a view or opinion in your work, it is ok to stand up for yourself and ask the critic to take their feedback elsewhere. In the rare occurrence that criticism does venture into the realm of abuse, it is important to know when to draw the line and how to protect yourself.

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