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There Let Us Wallow (How to Accept Criticism)

EditingIt’s a scary moment when you send your writing out into the world. This thing you’ve created from part of your own soul, this thing you dreamt up and gave life to, your baby. You want to protect it from everything, want to keep it safe. But you can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s up for scrutiny, and not everyone will love it like you do.

So how do you cope when you receive criticism?

There will be a lot of people jumping in to tell you to ignore it, to learn from it, and not to dwell on it. “Learn to shrug it off”, they’ll say. “You’ll need to grow a thicker skin if you want to be a writer.” And it’s fantastic advice, it really is, but remember this too: your initial feelings are not only completely valid, but they can be healthy too.

So feel free to wallow, or cry, or shout, or swear you’ll never write again. Feel free to binge eat ice cream, chocolate, or cake. Get drunk. Shout obscenities. Climb under your duvet and hide there. Stamp your feet, thump a pillow, scream at the sky. Do what you have to do to get those feelings out.

Then go to bed.

There’s a reason people say that things will look better in the morning. It’s because they usually do.

So feel free to wallow today, but tomorrow, wake up ready to kick some butt. Wake up ready to prove your critics wrong by bettering yourself, improving your work, strengthening your weaknesses, and accepting feedback with grace and self respect.

Feel free to wallow, but tomorrow’s another day, and if you feel like you lost today, get up and march for victory in the morning.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

22 thoughts on “There Let Us Wallow (How to Accept Criticism)”

  1. Thanks for this advice Angeline. Recently I’ve been giving my work to beta readers and submitting short stories to competitions, so I’m starting to grow my thick skin (could take a while). Binge eating on chocolate always helps! 😉

  2. very true. Sometimes letting yourself feel the thing is the best option. If you suppress or distract from, it comes out in other ways. The issue is acting too quickly when you’ve been hurt or criticized. That’s what gets people in trouble. I had a tough writerly conversation with a friend recently over content in her story. I knew she would feel defensive so I approached her outside of our group and via email with a lot of encouraging phrases added in. It wasn’t a criticism of her as a person but of the content of her work. It’s hard to personally separate that when it’s you under criticism! She ended up thanking me for having the tough conversation. Ultimately, I don’t want her to put out work that might hurt someone else, which is what it entailed, even if the hurting was totally unintentional. What kind of friend would I be if I ignored the warning flags?

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Absolutely right; it’s not about lashing out, it’s about knowing that your feelings are normal and valid, and it’s fine to express them.

      Writers need honest people around them, although, yes, it’s so tough to separate your work from yourself. It really does feel like one is part of the other. It doesn’t take long to see that people are helping. You acted very honourably, and she clearly appreciated it.

  3. This so much. I definitely don’t believe any writer should just shrug off criticism. It’s gotta affect you, so feel it, vent (offline) to a friend, and then shrug it off. It’s going to happen, so we have to know how to cope and work through it.

  4. Good advice. As a short story author, I’m used to rejection, but sometimes they still sting more than others. Got one of those last night, turned to my husband all depressed, and said, “This rejection hurt, and I don’t know how to handle it since I can’t eat my feelings on this diet.” LOL. Of course, I had the story out to a new market within the hour. It still stung.

  5. Great advice indeed! Of course, I tend to start wallowing right away and then sometimes on the very same night I will get that “inspired” feeling, or that lightbulb moment feeling, where I realise the harsh feedback I got was making a good point. Often the feedback I get isn’t harsh at all, and is kindly stated – but is still telling me I need to do a lot of work on my writing for various reasons.

    I’m pretty good at getting critique, but it can still sometimes take me weeks to get to a place where I feel like I’m ready to start implementing any of the good advice I’ve received.

  6. Great advice. You have to have that time to wallow. Negative reviews hurt. They do. I let the negative ones keep me from moving forward for a long time. All it took was one. (still working on that skin) I took time (too much time) recouped and got back up on the proverbial horse. This group was a big help with that.

  7. Writers need to consider only the criticism that pertains to the story they are trying to tell. You are right, Angeline. Get mad. Go to bed. Then in the morning consider what was said and only take away what you feel will help the story you are trying to tell.

    This is my first time here, so I’ll follow your blog and connect with you online. All best to you.

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