As writers, nothing hurts us more than seeing a negative review/criticism of our work(s). It’s a very painful reality that even established authors still struggle with.
But then, is criticism, especially negative ones, always bad?
We already know of the common and most desired ‘constructive criticism’. On Wattpad, you’d see many writers say something like: Only constructive criticism is allowed; let me know what you think, but be nice please, etc.
Of course, we like getting constructive criticisms to boost our confidence and remind us that we belong on the path we have chosen. But when we get just a single negative criticism, we forget about all the praises and just focus on that, one, hurtful, point of view.
But before we go further, let’s be clear on some facts:
It’s unavoidable: That’s right, no matter how many books you’ve written, or how many awards you’ve attained, not everyone is going to like your work or your writing, even critics. So you have to take it for what it is, change what needs to be changed, leave what doesn’t, and move on.
Not all critics are credible: Make sure that the critics you’re listening to are credible ones. For example, your mentor, an author you admire, or just someone whose opinion you trust. But even at that, you have to make sure their criticisms are from a professional viewpoint.
Listen, but you don’t have to follow: Exactly! At the end of the day, criticisms are more or less just options you can consider. It’s like you’re on a path to a certain place, then someone comes up and shows you a different path you can follow. Get that, ‘can’, not ‘must’. So critics can only talk, but the choice remains yours to follow or ignore.
That being said, here are three reasons why you should listen to critics.
- They can help improve your writing: Believe it or not, not all negative criticisms are out to get you. Some critics would only tell you what’s wrong from start to finish. So try not to take it personal, especially if you realize that the critic was right all along. Just focus on improving your writing. In the end, it’s for your own good.
- They can push you out of your comfort zone: How is this possible? Perhaps you did not carry out intensive research on a particular subject in your book because you believed it’s not your field, then a critic points it out as ‘incomplete information’. Hence, you may need to review your work, or even better, give it to someone else of high literary standing to be safer.
- They can challenge you to face your fear(s): Critics have a way of reminding us that we may be creative, but we’re not invincible. So if there’s anything you may not be sure of in your work. You should figure it out before putting it out. Else you’d have yourself to blame if a critic grills you for it.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice to listen to critics or ignore them entirely, even the helpful (but bluntly constructive) ones. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s for the betterment of your career, and not just for the soothing of your ego.