As a writer, you do need proper feedback to improve your writing. However, you don’t need criticism. There’s a difference.
Advice is so vital
for writers. We want to know that we’re communicating our thoughts clearly and
efficiently. Personally, I have worked with a number of editors over the years
and really enjoy their excellent feedback. When done correctly, it helps me
grow and expand my abilities.
Yes, I’m still
learning. I will always be doing so.
people seem hell-bent on stamping the life out of an author. Unfortunately,
artists of many ilk are criticized mercilessly. Sometimes it feels like it is
open season on filmmakers, fine painters, etc. It’s tough to endure.
I’ve been quite
fortunate to continually be surrounded by positive people, who share their
opinion in a supportive way. I always want to know if something I write isn’t
up to par, but I prefer not to be crushed in the process.
include the good
When I am asked to
give a critique on someone’s writing, I always include the good points first.
What did I like about the piece? What really worked? There’s always something
positive to say. It helps to reinforce their strengths.
I’ve noticed that
some people only zero in on the errors, the mistakes, and the missteps. It
leaves the author with the impression that their work is no good and it can
cause them to quit.
If you receive such an evaluation, try asking, “Was there anything you liked about it?” Some people hold back on the compliments. Maybe that’s because their work was sliced to ribbons when they were starting out and they think that’s appropriate. Maybe it’s for another reason. However, it’s good to help these people break that cycle by getting them to notice and discuss the plusses of your piece to improve your writing.
It’s helpful to be
able to spot critical people. They are the ones who love to tear a piece to
shreds, leaving very little intact. Their purpose isn’t to improve the writer’s
ability to write, but rather to take joy in setting a fledgling author back a
Again, these poor
souls were probably criticized heavily when they were first starting out. When
an artist is stretching their creative wings for the first time, they are in a
very vulnerable stage. If their attempts were smashed early on, they may have just
given up completely. The harsh critics of today are most likely the failed
artists of yesterday. Bitter and filled with unfulfilled goals, they lash out
So, how do you
recognize a critic? Pay attention to how you feel after reading their comments.
If you feel worthless and want to quit writing, ignore their “advice.” Trust
me, they don’t have your best interest at heart.
So, how do you
know if you’re going to be torn apart by razor-sharp teeth or if you might just
get a kernel of inspiration that will nudge you forward toward great writing?
It’s simply knowing the difference between a mentor and a critic.
Look for the
purpose behind the advice. You can often tell if someone is trying to help or
hurt by the words they use. Mentors will always point out errors in a way that
makes sense and encourages at the same. They recognize every artist starts
somewhere. Critics, on the other hand, have no such concern and can be rather
harsh in their language.
nasty critics love to say, “Don’t quit your day job!” Boy, do I hate that
invalidating phrase. What benefit does that little nugget offer? We all know we
need to put food on the table, but everyone should expand their horizons and
reach for the stars! Why not? Besides, if you don’t like your day job, it’s a
good idea to work toward changing it, right? I mean, you should do what you
enjoy doing in life!
You can also recognize good mentors, because they will read over your work and give you subtle guidance to improve your writing. They won’t overload you with dozens of problems to fix. Rather, they will focus on one common issue, guiding you toward solutions that you can discover on your own.
Take the bad
feedback with the good
encouragement is crucial to a writer’s development, it doesn’t help him or her
to only get a lot of pats on the back. If you show your work exclusively to
family and friends, they might not want to tell you how they really feel. They
care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.
When I get
feedback along the lines of “It’s good!” it might make me feel good, but I’m
looking for more. I’ll ask a few questions like:
Why is it good?
What did you like best?
Was there anything you didn’t care for?
Did you understand everything?
pour out of me.
Of course, it
feels great to get rave reviews and hearty pats on the back, but in the end you
need to also hear the bad with the good or it isn’t terribly helpful.
Keep in mind that the biggest way you can improve your writing is to write. Yes, that’s basic advice, I know. Any writer’s first words are an experiment in communication. Trial and error, along with research (reading good books) is the best way I know to learn the craft. Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage you in that direction. If you find that someone’s advice makes you want to stop, just realize that they are probably a critic and find a new advisor!