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One Thing I Learned

One thing (of many) I've learned from my years and years of writing is how to take feedback or criticism. Understanding how someone else relates to your work is key to understanding how to tell a story. There are two different styles of criticism. Constructive and Destructive.

Constructive criticism is the stuff of pure gold. It challenges you, but supports you. It asks questions of your work, even without knowing the answer. The reader provides their impressions, good and bad, but doesn't place blame. Destructive criticism is the complete opposite. It's an unhelpful opinion. It's a pointing finger. It doesn't provide a support structure for your work, it simply tears it down.

But both can be good. (I know, I know. Seriously?) Yes, seriously. Whereas constructive criticism turns into a conversation about your work, which can provide new ideas to help your story along, destructive criticism requires more work on your part to ask questions and investigate why your reader didn't respond to your work. But there are answers there. You just have to find them. (Yes, there are times when people are just mean because they're unhappy. But let's be honest, you probably know your reader and their opinions, so you should already expect it.)

Writers can be a sensitive people. We're not only revealing inner thoughts about our lives, we're also telling a story that we desperately want people to like to affirm that those countless hours under the pale light of our computer were not spent in vain. It's a double-pained takedown when the reaction to a piece of work is greeted with less-than enthusiasm.

It's dumb, I know. My job is to tell a story and if I'm not getting that story across in an entertaining manner, the frustration shouldn't be with the reader. It should be with myself.

Constructive versus Destructive

I didn't come to this realization overnight. It took years of being an idiot, sensitive, obtuse and other various words to describe someone who just doesn't get it. And even as you read this and nod your head, you could fall into the same criticism traps I did. I still do. Not so much anymore, but there are times when I get a little down on myself before realizing I'm falling into old patterns.

Back in the day. There were two ways it would go for me when confronted with any kind of criticism.

#1: I'd get depressed. I'd start doubting the work. I'd lose my excitement to push the script out there for others to see. I'd stop talking about it. I'd forget it. And then...the cycle repeated with a new writing project.

#2: I'd get upset with the reader. I'd convince myself that they simply 'don't get it'. I'd lose my excitement to push the script out there for others to see. I'd stop talking about it. I'd forget it. And then...the cycle repeated with a new writing project.

Notice how no matter what reaction I'd have, I would end up in the same place. Not a good one. I had to learn how to take criticism. I had to understand the differences between constructive and destructive criticism. More importantly, I had to realize that my writing wasn't perfect and even if it was the best I'd ever created, not everyone will respond to it the way I want them to.

But more importantly, I grew to understand that someone who agreed to read my material wasn't doing it with an ulterior motive to make me stop writing. They did it to help. To support. To be part of the process. (I mentioned before how I dumb I was being, right?) So, of course, all this criticism was coming from a good place and it was my responsibility to heed it and use it.

"The only kind of writing is rewriting" - Ernest Hemingway.

And my (and yours) key tool to get to that glorious rewriting is criticism. Embrace it, like I do. We need feedback. We need criticism. We need support. We need to be challenged. We need help...sometimes professionally.

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