You’re good but that stinks

I can write a book about criticism.

I won’t but after seven years reporting and living in Houston for most of my life I think I’m a bit of an expert in this area.

When hearing/taking criticism it’s important to know one important thing…

Only 10 percent of what they’re saying is true. The other 90 percent needs to be filtered to make the other 10 percent make sense.

It’s important for a writer to have a group of folks they can trust to tell the truth about their writing in a way that doesn’t wound the writer and at the same time makes sense. It needs to be a safe space. Sometimes though that safe space is infiltrated by folks who are about as suave as a brick.  Personally, if a person critiquing my work can’t give me specific examples of what doesn’t work and then verbalize it effectively, I ignore it.

So here’s how to deal with criticism:

* Listen, nod, smile, ask questions. Although this person who is telling you that what you’ve just written sucks probably has one solid point. But it doesn’t suck. They suck. They don’t know enough to not use the word suck in a critique. They probably write bad angsty poetry they thought was REALLY deep but is just desperate.

*Be polite. Just because that person is, at this point, the most horrible human being on the planet doesn’t mean that you need to stoop down to their level. Actually, you should really feel sorry for them because they’re so jealous of your prose.

* When they something interesting and probably true get them to give you ideas on how they would fix it. If their fix ideas are good they probably know what they are talking about. You should listen to them. Buy them coffee. Offer to fix it and then send them to revision.  If they don’t offer any good ideas on how to fix it, they don’t know a pen from a pencil.

* When they’re done, smile and thank them.  Then, in your head or on a voodoo doll, cuss them out, rip out their eyes, whatever. You are suppose to feel angry and rejected. They are natural feelings so don’t suppress them. Give them space to be.  After its all done, walk away from the project for a bit. Then with a clear head and heart look at it and re-evaluate. Some of what they said is true. That’s the ten percent.

*Criticisms are suggestions. This is how other people saw your work. But realize, however, at the end of the day YOU are the creator of the art. YOU make it do want it wants to do. Not other folks. So take the suggestions that will make it better and everything else throw it away. Who cares? It’s your piece, right?  Unless they’re an editor, don’t worry about it.

Hope this helps! Happy writing!

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