Criticism is part of our daily lives. Whether it’s about what we wear, what we watch, what we look like—there is someone out there to point fingers and offer unsolicited advice. Even on the advertisements we see, especially on Facebook, people have taken it upon themselves to let the model exactly how they feel about (usually) her appearance and what she looks like. In an atmosphere like this, its nearly impossible to avoid the harsh words of others. So, the aim is not to avoid it, but how to address it?
As a writer with entertainment words “out there” for all to see, criticism is a daily part of our lives. Amazon, Goodreads, and book review blogs are there to tell us what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong. To be honest, it is difficult to read how someone doesn’t like a story or a character near and dear to our hearts, but over my career as an author, I’ve picked up quite a few tips relevant for both the “author life” and real life. Read on to see how I cope with criticism.
Words which tell us our efforts are either not good enough or not appreciated are difficult to hear. However, the first thing to do what we perceive as harsh words is to do the following:
1. Listen and Analyze – Before shutting down in the face of words we might not want to hear, really listen to what the speaker is saying. Is the critique relevant? Finding little nuggets of advice in what may seem to be a personal attack is difficult, but often if we listen calmly and think about what is being said, we can see the validity behind it.
2. Don’t take it personally – Yes, it hurts. We created this project, whether it be an outfit, a story, or even a cake, and it is our little creation. Of course, it’s going to sting when someone points out something wrong with it. However, bite the bullet, swallow the pride and do #3.
3. Ask Questions – If the criticism is coming from a place of caring, i.e. the person delivering the message is doing so in a sincere effort to make us look better, then we should take the time to breathe and ask the person to elaborate. Perhaps the words seemed harsh at first glance, but when we give the person time to explain, we may see the value of their opinions.
4. Consider the Source – I touched on this a bit in #3. If the critique is coming from someone we could care less about, brush it off. Don’t let the harsh words of others who are not invested in your well-being to dampen your creative spirit.
5. Manage your reaction – This probably should have been both first and last because it’s so important. Many of us tend to beat ourselves up for past mistakes, past missteps, and things we simply can’t change. The same with criticism. Criticism is hurtful, let’s be real. No matter how hard we work, there will be something wrong with what we’ve done—we are not perfect. Therefore, if someone offers us some helpful hints on our work, take them. We shouldn’t apply them to what we’ve already done: we can’t change that, but we should use it going forward.
Above all, and this should be the greatest takeaway: don’t stop creating. Keep on keeping on. Criticism will not kill you, thus do not allow it to kill the creative spark and/or the drive to “do” within you. Remember, every single person walking this lovely Earth has a different way of looking at things. We, as artists, and as human beings, need to seek out people who will support us as well as gently help us to go in the right direction. This is how you thrive as an artist as well as a person!
Tell me, what are some ways you counter criticism? Do you ignore the person? Snap back? Does it have an effect on how you perceive yourself, or do you just brush it off and go? Let me know in the comments!