Not-so-fun fact: No one can escape criticism.
Whether it is constructive, whether it is for our works, or whether it is based on what we believe in, we will always be judged. The question is: how do we deal with it?
Personally, I receive the most criticism in my written work. Freely putting my work out there has invited many opinions, and some of them aren’t very nice. So how do I deal with these not-so-nice words? My approach happens in 3 phases:
What do you know about writing? If it’s so easy, go write your own book. The plot sucks? Well, trying plotting your own novel. Wait, you’re not a writer? Ha! Haha! You talk big for someone without experience. Pfft!
I previously blogged in Does Blogging Help? on how blogging has helped me learn from and accept constructive criticism. But receiving criticism on the blogosphere from people who genuinely want to help me is different from receiving criticism from people who don’t.
When The Battle for Oz was published, advance copies were given in exchange for honest reviews, copies were placed in numerous bookstores for anyone to purchase, and free copies were thrown in giveaways. The more copies sold meant the more copies read. The more copies read meant the more reviews given. The more reviews given, the higher the chances of negative words to be written.
My response toward the first few negative reviews was outright resentment. I ranted and vented about them to my family. I posted passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. I went to bed angry. But the more I encountered such reviews, the number I grew toward them.
I’m not saying I’m resentment-free. I still internalise a sarcastic comeback toward said reviews, but I no longer rage over them. I believe it is normal to resent negative words. That’s what makes us human And that doesn’t mean we’re sour grapes. So if you need to deal with criticism with a little resentment, do so.
*Disclaimer: Please do not act on your emotion in a way you would regret. Do not verbally abuse a reviewer, and do not hunt them down and smash a bottle of wine on their head. As someone who is being watched (even by a few people), you want to live a life that inspires. Not a life that sets bad examples.
Maybe you don’t like my book because it’s not what you usually read. Maybe you didn’t know this wasn’t an adult book. Maybe you just don’t get my writing style. Maybe you set too high of an expectation.
The second phase I go through after my ears stop steaming is reasoning. I try to find a reason why someone had something bad to say about my work. This phase is not about justifying the critique, but justifying my work itself. This is where I question whether my work is horrible or decent. And the only reason I reason… is to make myself feel better. But my response toward all the reasoning is crucial.
You see, when you start reasoning with criticism, you start asking the big questions in life: why do you do what you do? Are you good at it? Should you give up? Is this passion worth it?
How you answer these questions determine where you go from there. Your answers will either build a strong foundation in self-faith or torch your dreams to ashes. My own answers have only grown my passion for writing. I am not without self-doubt, but I choose to believe I’m more than a negative review. Reasoning reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Reasoning helps me keep the end goal in mind.
Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a right to an opinion. But I won’t let an opinion change my dreams, and I certainly won’t let an opinion change who I am.
Some days I reach this phase fairly quickly, some days it takes a while. But every time, I will come to realise that opinions do not have the power to tear me down or force me to change. Opinions are opinions, no matter how tactless they are. They are not a command or a law. They have no control over my life.
I can choose how I want to take a criticism. If it’s constructive, I learn from it. If it’s hateful, I use it to drive me toward my goal. I don’t write for the approval of men, I write for me.
Some people will tell you not to read reviews or critiques, because they are discouraging and they stir unwanted emotions. Personally, I encourage you to read and take negative reviews. You’ll learn to tame the monster within, you’ll discover more about yourself and your passion, and you’ll drive yourself to be better. There is always something positive to take out of negative circumstances. And dealing with criticism (not running from criticism) is one of them. When you come to this realisation, nothing can stand in your way.
So, there you have it: the phases I go through to deal with criticism. I’m not sure if this post is of any help, but if there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this, is that you’re not alone. I face criticism – I have my own haters – but I choose not to give up and work toward becoming better. I hope you’ll face criticism the same way too.
Criticism has no power to alter your dreams. Only you have the power to do so.