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  1. Mistyunion
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    Mistyunion New Member

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    Trouble dealing with criticism

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Mistyunion, Aug 12, 2010.

    I'm an avid writer, and have written around 300,000 words or so within the past two years, but the writing's all dead. When I say this I mean I never show it to anyone nor let anyone read it, even if it's just over the shoulder. I am fiercely protective of my writing no matter how flawed I know it is...

    Which brings us to my problem. I am a serious writer. I write everything with a mindset of having it published so that others can enjoy it and plan everything, so technique is not my issue, at least I so believe, but I cannot stand critique and have trouble facing any negative comments. As you can see in my join date and post count, I joined a while ago, posted some and left, because I disliked the criticism. Now that my writing quality has been steadily dropping I need critique and advice.

    I suppose, long story short is, I suffer from an immense amount of pressure in daily life, and the necessity of perfection has led me to become a self-destructive perfectionist.

    I want to overcome this, (and my perfectionism insists that I do), so here's the first step in doing so.

    How do you suggest I deal with this issue?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know what to tell you except to grit your teeth and just bear it. There's no other way to acclimate yourself to the criticism and develop a thicker skin.

    And if you want to be a published author, you'll have to develop that skin. Between reviews, amazon comments, and just random internet postings, etc. you'll probably never see as much criticism as after you are published, even if the work is very good. That's just the nature of the beast.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    A more practical suggestion can you meditate? I find it a wonderful resource for my writing and it can help you gain some confidence and chill out about it.?
     
  4. gabelpa
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    gabelpa Banned

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    You may think of yourself as a serious writer, but how can you be sure your writing is any good without having other people look at it? We are mostly a friendly bunch here, and with a few exceptions, will look at your work objectively and make suggestions for improvement.
     
  5. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    Easy way how to deal with it: drink until you don't think. :)
    But seriously, if you can't take it then don't do it. Just write and if you feel like you need some input then get it from someone who knows you and knows how to tell you the truth without hurting you.
    I usually try not to rely on critics because I only write for myself and don't publish books commercially but rather quite freely through the internet. I'm not really a big response who... junkie. Whether people like my stories or not they are there for those who wanna read them.
     
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  6. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Misty I think it might help you deal with the criticism to remember that the overwhelming majority of people who post here are likely to come up against a critique that feels like a low blow. You're certainly not alone. It would be highly unusual to receive glowing praise here. Most of us are inexperienced and looking for advice.

    Remember that criticism is relevant only as it applies to your work now. Everyone improves with time and effort. A cursory look at newspaper reviews of household name authors' new novels shows immediately that the criticism never stops, no matter how successful you are.

    Writing is art. Yes there are technical aspects but opinions as to what constitutes good writing is subjective.
     
  7. Marla_Singer
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    Marla_Singer New Member

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    I have just started to take my writing work serious, as I have discovered, I am quite good at it.

    I am just starting out, but one thing I have noticed is, criticism more times than not is an opinion.

    Even the authors out right now, with a huge fan base have that select few saying "That book is terrible."

    Don't let that hinder you from having success and being loved by those countless others.
     
  8. Mistyunion
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    Mistyunion New Member

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    Aww...thanks for the encouragement guys. I really love my writing, and I feel like I'm neglecting it if I won't let others read it as well. I guess my main problem is I am a little insecure and since writing is my way of release, if someone 'attacks' my point of release, I am really sensitive about it. Well, in summary, making myself accept criticism is one aspect that I can't back down on.

    It's also not that I can't deal with crit, as I don't find teachers analyzing my weak spots offensive at all (although what I write for serious business are mostly things that I don't really believe. More of the pesky perfectionism kicking in).

    I guess I'll just give it another go in the Reviews forum. I do have several novels built up over the past year.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First point: Do not take the criticism personally. If someone says your writing is bad, they're not saying that you're a bad person. They're just saying that you produced a bad piece of writing. Respond to them not by sulking or fuming, but by writing better.

    Second point: Nobody is perfect. Not even you. Not even (as hard as this is to believe) me! ;) Nobody has ever written so well that they're above criticism, even criticism from highly qualified and respectable sources. Shakespeare has had his share of mud flung at him, as have Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and everybody else. Nobody has ever won the Nobel Prize for Literature without having respectable critics around the world saying "WHAT??? You have GOT to be kidding."

    Third point: As the saying goes, it's not how often you get knocked down; it's how often you get back up. Maybe the most important thing a writer needs isn't talent or even practice; maybe it's sheer bloodyminded persistence.

    Just keep writing. Don't let the bastards get you down.
     
  10. Fedora
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    Fedora Active Member

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    You'll probably take this the wrong way, but I find that the best way to get used to criticism is to write better. Don't give them anything to complain about, and it becomes a non-issue. That said, don't start a piece with the intention of making it perfect. Start it with the intention of finishing it, as you can always fix things later.

    Besides, negative criticism is always better than positive criticism; without it, you'd never know your weaknesses. Until you realize that there is a problem with your writing, you can't remedy it.

    Stephen King once said that you should give your work out to three trusted friends. If they all complain about the same thing, change it regardless of whether or you want to or not. If they all complain about different things, safely ignore everything else they've said.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you might want to dip your toe in the water and pick someone you can rely on for professional level advice and ask them to give you some feedback on your writing privately, so you won't feel you're being hung up to dry in public... once you've gotten used to private feedback, it will then be easier to post your work on a forum...

    i've worked with many super-sensitive writers over the years and all but a rare few exceptions have overcome this problem fairly quickly, by my blending professional expertise with motherly tlc...

    you should be proud of yourself for having taken the first step already, by going public with the problem!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  12. Mistyunion
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    Mistyunion New Member

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    No, not at all. I am normally a very logical person, so I entirely understand your point here. A small hindrance is that I currently don't know any friends that A) provide good feedback or B) takes writing seriously, which is why I have taken to the forums.

    I have considered this, and am already asking/giving critiques among local writing clubs and meets, but I don't feel secure showing people the writing that I actually put my feelings into. But I most certainly will take your advice. Thank you! :)
     
  13. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    It could just be that you aren't quite ready for that step. I mean, there are many people who are interested in writing. And after they've written a lot, they think, "Well, obviously I need to get my writing critiqued in order to improve." But just saying that they want that doesn't mean they are ready to deal with the consequences, and it can be very hard to tell the difference between the writer who is looking for a critique and the one that just wants to get a pat on the head and a thousand words of well-reasoned praise.

    If you are secure in your writing style, then "opinion" criticism is easy to take. If you are confident in the way you want to tell your story, then more direct and usful criticism -- "Your character seems too cruel to be sympathetic," "You didn't describe the house he's in so I didn't get how he could escape in the chase scene" -- can be filtered for the useful bits, and the chaff can be discarded.

    Again, this isn't meant as an insult. But just as many writers say they want it as a career, and then don't actually write five hours a day every day, so too do many want-to-be-writers claim they want criticism when they don't. They just want to have people say "Wow, this is really cool."

    If you really, really want to have your writing improve, then you will be able to deal with the criticism. If this isn't true, then ask whether you're being any more reasonable than the overweight guy who says he wants to run a marathon, but isn't willing to train or time himself or otherwise prepare for it.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you break the two issues apart for a while?

    That is, if you have trouble with criticism, and the criticism is hardest when it's about your most heartfelt writing, could you write some less heartfelt, more workaday stuff that's especially _for_ criticism?

    I realize that in the end you want to improve your best writing, and that's probably the stuff that's closest to your heart. But maybe you could accustom yourself to criticism with the other stuff for a while first, and once that criticism stings less and you're more accustomed to the process, only then gingerly bring up some pieces that are more important to you.

    And the initial process wouldn't _just_ be an exercise in becoming accustomed to criticism - even if the less important stuff isn't your best writing due to your lower interest in the topic, it should still be a tool to start uncovering weak points.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. Chel
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    Chel Member

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    You say it right there in your tagline. :)

    I was going to suggest what Chickenfreak said - start small by posting something you've written that's not so close to your heart so you can get used to it.

    When I first posted something for a review (on another forum, not here), I was very nervous - I almost wore my mouse out by refreshing my thread so often. The reviews I got were very, very useful - not only did a few repeated spelling errors pop up (there were no thirsty animals in my work, I can assure you I had enough troughs for all of them!), but I also got incredibly valuable feedback in general.

    I found the whole experience very encouraging and helpful, especially since I now realise just how much work it will be for me to edit my story. But I'm already applying what I've learned so far into my writing, so there may be less for me to edit in my future writing - there are no more misplaced troughs in my texts anymore, they're all properly spelled throughs now. ;)

    Good luck with it, both the writing and the dealing with critiques. Just keep in mind that reviewers on forums like this want to help you, not hurt you. We want you to be the best writer you can be, so we get good books to read.
     
  16. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Practice makes perfect. I would deal with this emotional issues around receiving like a phobia. Gently learning myself to deal with it.

    If its hard for you to face criticism maybe you shouldn't train yourself to deal with it using you most beloved writings.

    Write a short text just for fun, don't go trim it to perfection, maybe poetry if you not used to it, or with a big "fake" fault, or whatever you can think of to make it easier for you to handle the criticism emotionally. Do it a few times until it start feeling okay, and then move on to other kinds of text that you think might feel okay to get feedback on. Really old text maybe.

    Another point of criticism is that it can feel easier if you ask a particular question "Is X to much Y or should I empathize Z?" feels a lot less personal to get answers too.

    A third thing is that writing is a way to communicate. One way to get instant feedback and give instant feedback is to be in some sort of interactive writing process. Like the RPGS on this boards and elsewhere for example.
     
  17. SerraSwift
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    SerraSwift Member

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    Writing may just be too personal for you.

    I got my BA in Art and Illustration. I had a hard time all through school dealing with the critiques of my professors and classmates. When I graduated, I tried to get art gigs, but couldn't handle my clients' requests for changes. Eventually I did some hard thinking and realized that though I loved art, and loved to create it, it was just too personal for me. "Putting it out there" made me feel too vulnerable, too defensive. I couldn't do it for money. I had to just do it for myself.

    Writing may be the same for you. If you are interested in it as a profession, you might try separating your personal work from the work you would like to publish. If your release is through writing fiction, you may want to make non-fiction articles or books your focus in the professional arena. Or, practice taking criticism by showing your work to some trusted friends and family members. They are usually less harsh than strangers (but not always, my mom is brutal with her critiques!)

    When I made my "keep art as a hobby" decision, I decided to get back into writing, which I had been obsessed with in high school but dropped when I got accepted into the art program. I found that the sensitivity I had with art did not hinder my writing. Critiques aren't a problem for me because I know that I can take or leave suggestions---and making changes is as easy as creating a new file on the computer. I don't have to worry about making changes to an ink drawing or a painting that has already dried.

    It might be good to remind yourself that you don't have to take the suggestions given to you by a critiquer. Obviously you will want to correct any technical errors, but most readers will have different impressions of and suggestions for your work. Try having several people read it, and see where the common "issues" are...those are the target areas to fix.

    You can also try out some of the changes and if you don't like them, revert back to your original document :)

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but I know exactly where you are coming from! I hope you figure out what works best for you. Good luck!

    --Serra
     
  18. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing to do - although this is easier said than done - is to find the reason for your perfectionism. Like, is there something which makes you afraid to fail, or to disappoint someone.
     
  19. scintilla
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    I had written for over twenty years before I started letting anyone read my writing. What made the difference?

    A realization I guess, that at its heart writing is nothing unless it is read. If you don't intend to share it, then you may as well be writing in a secret language only you understand. As perfectionist as you are, do you only speak to yourself for fear of mis-communicating your thoughts? Of course not. Speaking, writing, living, is communication. And that takes two (at least).

    A its heart the definition of a writer is one who writes. Nothing more than that. You don't have to meet an arbitrary standard of perfection you have in your head before you turn it loose on an unsuspecting public (and your "perfection" is arbitrary. Good writing crosses all genres, but perfect writing is a chimera).

    Because of that you have to get it out there. Writing must produce an effect, and therefore has an objective: the reader. Your goal is to create an experience for the reader, to take them where they won't or can't go (but are curious about nonetheless). I wonder if you think of it that way.

    I can't imagine a hypnotist being happy not hypnotizing people, or a doctor not curing, or a magician only ever practicing in his basement.

    I encourage you to do it, and do it right away. Sure, you will get some negative feedback. And that might hurt. But isn't that life? Would you encourage your child to live a life where there was no possibility of ever getting hurt? What would be the price for such a life?

    So we all have a lot to learn. We can only get so far on our own, but we are poor judges of our own babies.

    Turn them loose. Get started.

    BTW, I re-wrote this about seven times, but eventually I pressed "Submit Reply."
     
  20. SerraSwift
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    SerraSwift Member

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    I absolutely agree.

    There is also something to be said for the subjectivity of writing and reading. I cannot tell you how many times I have hated a book only to find it has a rabid fan base online. Or vice versa--how many times I have loved a book only to go online and find gobs and gobs of bad reviews.

    I think Twilight is probably a good example here. Many people absolutely adore that book and its sequels, while many others find the writing to be of poor quality. Who is right? Does it matter? It is published and enjoying success, whether I (or anyone else) believe(s) it deserves as much or not. And it got published because the author took a chance.

    It's better to put it out there and risk negative criticism and grow from the experience, than be (as scintilla mentioned) the magician performing in the basement.

    It's definitely hard to take criticism. But it is important to keep growing as a writer. :)
     
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  21. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    No matter how BIG a writer you are, there is going to be negative criticism about your work. As someone has already mentioned, how one views a writing is very subjective. In the latest edition of Salman Rushdie's book "Midnight's Children", in his note he said that when he show his ms to a publisher he was told to first practice writing short stories to learn the mechanics of writing stories. Others appreciated it but recommended some changes which he did. His book went on to win the Booker of Bookers Award. So, if you believe in your writing, you shouldn't let negative critiques bogged your writing down, and at the same time you should learn to take negative critiques in a positive light which will undoubtedly help you become a better writer.
     
  22. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    I found out through the many years that I did theater how to negative critiques and turn them into constructive. I mean obviously if someone said "well that sucked!" I'm going to be furious! But you won't get an audience like that here. I haven't been here that long but I can already tell that there's a good group here and we'll all give you critiques that will help you and not discourage you. :)
     
  23. Radrook
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    Radrook Contributing Member

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    Criticism doesn't have to be a person-to-person thing. As writers we receive criticism of our work when we read writers magazines and come across areas that need improvement. No one to get angry at there! So for the extraordinarily sensitive, that's the best way to go. Also, it's very important to avoid being over-conscious of what the intended reader might think. Writing for oneself releases the creative impulse and tends to make writing effortless and fun. Having an invisible, critical reader constantly nitpicking over one's shoulder does the opposite.
     
  24. Shiba
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    Shiba New Member

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    What I suggest is, pretend someone else wrote it. View it objectively and honestly see all the mistakes in it, and fix it. Then, work through what you've written until you're more or less happy with it, then ask people whom you know are good writers to critique it for you.
    Once you find a balance that works for you between the extremes of "flawless" and the piece of writing's original state, you'll be fine. There will always be people who want you to change things; look at what they say rationally, decide whether you agree, and then either use what they say or don't. That's easier said than done, but if the criticism is constructive, that most likely means that whoever wrote it honestly thinks they can help, and they may or may not be right.
     
  25. Gurari
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    Part of your issue may be that your expectations of the work (or perhaps personal evaluations) are unrealistic. One thing I've noticed in here (this forum) and out there (the real world), is that a lot of people (especially those who are sensitive) don't have a reflective understanding of what excellence is within a given field.

    To me, confidence is the ability to recognize your weaknesses, the ability to share those weaknesses when appropriate, and the ability to say I will grow and learn from the experiences in my life no matter what may come.

    A lot of people say, "I'm doing this because I'm great at it." I think someone in this thread even said "I'm taking my writing seriously because I'm great at it." Or something to that effect. Rereading your post, you yourself say, "I'm a serious writer," (which can possibly be taken to mean, I take my work seriously, and think highly of it because I take it seriously).

    It's more realistic to say, "I'm doing this because I have to (or love to, or feel compelled to, whatever your personal motivators are). Someday, I may reach a level that I will be satisfied with. Even then, even if I achieve proficiency that is widely recognized to be excellent, there will be those who disagree (even Joyce has his detractors!). Even then, I should redefine my goals so I can continue to grow."

    In your case, you say:

    First, why do you feel that you must be "fiercely protective"? Are you scared, insecure, weak, etc? In some ways, you must realize, what you've done by creating this thread is open some of your psyche to our criticism, without the mask of a story to help you. In some ways, what you've done is a lot more brave than post a piece of writing for critique. Because if someone who reads this gives you a response to your issue that you deem harsh (as you might feel I'm doing), it doesn't just feel like a critique of your work, it feels like a personal attack.

    Second, what is the pressure you deal with in your daily life? Is the pressure a fabrication of your own mentality? Put things in perspective. What will the consequences be if you succumb to the pressure you are facing? What will the consequences be if you post your writing for review?

    In the end it comes down to action. Post or don't post. Read a review or don't read a review. Take from a review, no matter how it is stated (negatively, positively), what you can and learn from the elements you are able to use or linger on the emotion of the review and decide that the review is worthless. Make a decision. Face your challenges. Just do it. Nike.
     

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