“If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.”
Being told you’re doing something wrong does tug at your heart a little, and thoughts along the lines of, “Why am I even doing this?” may play across your mind over and over. It’s normal. When you think you’re doing a good job and someone interferes with comments that might seem harsh on the surface, you do right to feel like a deflated balloon. The party is most definitely over.
After the first time, it happens again. You’ve cleaned the house to perfection, but someone points out that you’ve missed a line of dust on the book shelf. You’ve been cooking for two hours, but when it’s ready, they admit it’s not the best thing you’ve ever cooked.
You’ve written an amazing prologue, but to someone else, it doesn’t make the reader feel anything towards your characters. Well. They obviously don’t know what they’re talking about do they?
Actually, this is where you have to take a step back and accept that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. It’s okay not to be perfect. We all know we aren’t perfect in fact, but as soon as someone says otherwise, we feel inclined to experience a bit of hurt, even though what they’re saying is completely true. That’s just the way of the human race, folks.
The first time you do something, it’s new. Now, being new at something, no matter how much you think you know or how much you enjoy doing it, is still new. You don’t know everything and you’re not expected to. Admit it!
…Thanks. Let’s move on.
Now we’ve got that established, let’s think about something else. There will be people who know more than you when it comes to doing this ‘thing’. They could have been doing something longer than you, and they could have done more research than you. Yes, they may have a knack for it, but that doesn’t mean they were born knowing every trick in the book. Those are two different things. Everyone has started at square one. Everyone has to work hard to get good at something. Do you think the most successful people in the world gave up when things got a bit tough, or when they were told something they were doing wasn’t right to their standards? No, of course not. They worked twice as hard and proved them wrong. But, the criticism they received was what motivated them, what pushed them to do better. If it wasn’t for the criticism, perhaps they wouldn’t be where they are today. That’s something to think about when you’re lying in bed tonight.
So, back to you. I’m sure there’s been at least one time that someone has ‘criticised’ something you’ve done, when you thought you’d done a good job. There has with me. I even had someone try to rewrite a section of my story to how they wanted it to sound! As much as people say they’re trying to help, you do get the odd person that tries to take over. Try and disregard them from your mind while reading this, because when people constructively criticise something you do, they shouldn’t want to turn it into their own. They should give you some advice yes, but never go over your head.
Learning to accept constructive criticism is a hard one, which was why it took me so long to share what I’d written with others. I couldn’t bear the thought of being embarrassed about something I’d written because, of course, I was a newbie. I didn’t have it in my head that people could give me advice on where I could improve and I didn’t want people to point out my flaws. It took me what seemed like forever to finally come around to the idea. If I hadn’t have done, then what?
I wouldn’t have learned more. I wouldn’t have noticed the things that didn’t really work to an outsider and because eventually, the people who would read my work would be members of the public, I decided to allow feedback from the people I trusted and honestly, I’ve learned to cope with it. After all, I think back again to how people become successful, and it isn’t all plain sailing.
I’ve been able to better my work ever since. Yes, it is a pain hearing that something doesn’t work, but do you know what? Most of the time when reading something through again, I realise that it doesn’t sound as well as it could. I adjust things, I swap things around and I totally rewrite some things. But now, I know it’s what’s needed to grow, and it applies to anything that you do in life.
Just try it. Get the opinions of other people. People you can trust, people you know will be constructive and not one of those people that need to get too involved to feel good about themselves. Ask them to review what you’ve done and emphasise the need to be honest about it. If you’ve missed that line of dust, you’ll make sure you don’t miss it next time. If your meal wasn’t the best, find out why and make sure you add that crucial ingredient or cook it that little it longer next time. Have you noticed a pattern here? Criticism can be used to better yourself. To make you see things you didn’t see before. To help you grow.
If you’ve been asked for your input, then be truthful about it. If there’s hundreds of spelling mistakes in someone’s first draft of their novel, point it out. They’ll thank you later on. It’s a mystery why some people feel the need to be harsh or mean when criticising, but converting it to constructive criticism can be life changing to some. Don’t be the person everyone dislikes because something isn’t the way you would do it, or if the style isn’t to your taste. Be kind; the secret to growth is helping others to grow.
How do you cope with criticisms? 🙂