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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Criticism and Creativity

     How do we accept criticism?  We are taught to accept it with grace and say “thank you.” That may work for outwardly appearances, but what about inside?

     We’ve been doing it since kindergarten, first grade or whenever we first learned the lesson.  Sometimes we really do appreciate the criticism and sometimes we think “just consider the source” and blow it off.

     Now, we’re writers or aspiring writers and we cling to every word of that criticism. We join writer’s groups. We have beta readers and critique partners. Some are family or friends and some are complete strangers. Some may offer a free sample edit to introduce their services.

     Usually the feedback we receive is constructive. It may not all be positive, but even the negative is peppered with some positive insights. We see what we need to improve and usually agree with the person critiquing our work.

     We’ve worked hard on our WIP, whether it is a short story or an epic novel. Maybe we outlined, did character studies, developed time lines or wrote by the seat of our pants. Whatever way we chose to write our story, it’s important to us. We may have written a children’s book, a romantic novel, a frightening suspense or horror tale or a comedic piece.

      Whatever it was, it’s ours. We nurtured it. We thought about it when we were driving or trying to fall asleep. It was a big part of our life and still is. We have hopes and dreams wrapped into our WIP. It has been fun, a headache, frustrating and wonderful to write.

     We’re expecting our latest critique and open the e-mail with excitement building. Then we read words we’ve never read before and we wonder if this person has even read the same piece we sent them. The critique is so negative you think the e-mail will burst into flame.

     There is absolutely no way this person read the entire chapter or section you sent. There couldn’t be. How can one person’s opinion differ from the eight or ten you‘ve already received? Now comes the hard part. Each time you received a critique of any kind, written or verbal, you made changes. You improved your work and it shows. Or does it?

     You begin to doubt yourself. You forget about the “consider the source” option. You let one person you have never met throw a curve ball into your work. You’re ready to toss your laptop out the window.  You’re a failure. What were you thinking? A writer? Yea right. You’re lost. Your creativity is gone.

     STOP! You are the same person you were when you began to write your WIP. You may be a better writer after all the criticism, but you’re still the same person who wrote the first word. You have the same hopes and dreams. Did you begin your piece with the idea of deleting it after all the work you put into it? Of course not, you want people to read it and enjoy it. Don’t give up. Never let one terribly negative opinion shut you down. Read it again and see if there is something you can learn from it. Then delete it from your e-mail and your mind.

     In writing as in life, negativity can destroy creativity, spirit and hope. Don’t let it happen to you. Go back to the first paragraph you wrote and remember what it felt like to begin your WIP. You will find yourself again. 

Happy writing,


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