You’re not doing it right.
Can’t you see that’s the complete opposite of what you’re trying to say?
Sounds familiar? You’ve either heard this being said to you or (infinitely more interesting), you’ve said this to someone else. Nobody likes criticism. It’s hard to hear it, it’s annoying to accept and it’s downright irritating to set out and correct it.
Half the time, though, I’m the one giving the critique, finding myself in Jack Nicholson’s position where he’s yelling his head off in the courtroom in A Few Good Men. *Aside: That’s a great movie!
While growing up, I recall when my dad would critique me- my writing, my singing, my work on a task. He’d look it over or listen and say, ‘Not your best work. This is what you’ve done wrong.’
While I initially fumed at what I perceived as ‘being mean’, as I grew older, I realised how much he’d shaped my being open to the voices of others.
Thanks to him, I could take it when a teacher dismissed my essay as being too wordy. When I received a rejection letter from an editor for a micro story, I learnt to take it in the right spirit. When friends and fellow bloggers point out typos in my post or the fact that the story doesn’t shape up quite that well, I listen and act on it.
Plus, I know I’ve said it enough times, but one of the best sites out there to help writers grow in their craft is Yeah Write. They have a team of dedicated editors who scan pieces for errors, stylistic flaws, bad construction of sentences and send you a personalised e-mail which point out your mistakes.
It took me a whole year to get a nod of approval from them and I cherish it to this day. After that, there have been ups and downs on the journey, but I think long and hard before submitting a piece each week. In my mind, if it is sub-par, I won’t submit it and I’m glad.
Writing a book is actually a very challenging task. If it isn’t paucity of time that is your enemy, it’s your laziness. Once you start writing, you tend to worry about what people will think of the book. Once you’re halfway through you wonder if it is even worth finishing. I’m not sure what happens when the book is actually finished. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
So, it’s very easy to succumb to the inner critic and feel even worse when someone else reads your work and says , ‘What absolute bilge!’
Why am I even talking about this? I’ve seen a growing trend of late, of published work that doesn’t come up to par. Sub-standard writing seems to be the norm and it is worrying. Reading this piece by Sreesha had me nodding along. I’m not entirely sure what is driving this but I’m guessing there are a few factors:
- Inability to receive critique (no surprises there)
- Praise for written work which is sub-standard
- Sugar coating criticism to the point of being so soft that the recipient does not feel offended
- Unwillingness to accept that what one has written is just not good quality
It’s sad, really. If we chose to receive criticism in the right spirit, think of how different things would be.Whether you like it or despise it (I’m guessing most of us fall into the latter group), criticism is good for us. It helps us grow. It helps us reshape our words and reform our thinking. It puts us in the other person’s shoes.
If you can’t handle criticism, ask yourself why and you may find that the answer is staring you in the face. You’re just not ready to hear it.
Or, as Nicholson eloquently puts it, ‘You can’t handle the truth.’
Can you handle constructive criticism? Do you defend yourself when someone points out your errors or do you stay open and receptive? How has it helped you- as a writer, blogger or just an individual?