On Writing: Accepting Critique

We started talking about critique two weeks ago.  We talked about why critique is necessary and discussed different methods of critique and the benefits they provide.

Today, we get to the heart of critique.

Most people either do this very badly or excel at it. I’m talking about accepting critique. It is a humbling experience that should be handled with gratitude and grace, especially if you want to continue receiving critique. I mentioned not being able to help the skin you’re in and solidified the importance of understanding the different forms.

Critique is not fun. It’s not really fun to give, and it definitely not fun to receive. Sometimes, it’s not even all that nice. Sometimes it’s filled with more criticism than positives, and sometimes an extra dose of grace is indeed needed. No matter what critique you receive (though I hope you’ll never experience the kind that tears you down and makes you stop writing), there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle it.

How to Accept Critique

  • DO: say thank you. Even if you don’t agree, still thank the person for their input. Even if their comment is asinine,  a thank you is still in order. After all, you don’t have to agree with what they said.
  • DON’T: get all pissy and argumentative. If you really feel you must explain, do so with a smile. You’ll win more feedback and explanations that way than you will with negativity and lashing out. “You are stupid. Did you even read it, because if you did, you’d clearly…Thank you for your input. I respectfully disagree.”
  • DO: Acknowledge the critique, even if you are only accepting part of it. “Thank you for the suggestion, and while I don’t agree on switching the murder weapon, I really do like your idea to stalk him in the stairwell.”
  • DON’T: Stress. Most of the time, the critique is not the final draft. Beta readers, editors, and critique partners are separate beings. Critique comes before betas, who come before the final editor. Anyway, those suggestions you don’t agree with may have a streak of truth to them you may only want to make note of.
  • DO: Acknowledge what the mass has to say. If 3 of 5 readers tell you to kill your darling, you should listen, but that odd man out? His weight only counts if it’s combined with the others or you agree with it.
  • DON’T: be afraid to scream, yell, cry, and feel overwhelmed. Accepting critique is hard. You don’t need “lizard skin” to accept critique, but you should always remember the spirit it is given in—which should always be for improvement.

Remember, if you ask for critique, you’re opening yourself up. This can go both ways, but you shouldn’t avoid it just because. No one is born with lizard skin but reptiles, but everyone has the capacity for grace and gratitude. If you keep an open mind, you’ll find the critique doesn’t hurt quite so much. It will humble you as much as it will help you, and open your eyes to better writing in the long run.

What tips would you add to this list? Did you realize it’s pretty much the same as accepting a rejection notice? One could almost say critique prepares you for the rejection. Hmmm…

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