Lately, I’ve noticed some of my writer friends are unhappy. There are a variety of reasons, but most of it seems to revolve around criticism. Notice I didn’t say “critiques”, but criticism. Opinions are like those other things everyone else has, right? They’re always going to be there. The trick is to keep those criticisms or unhelpful opinions from bogging us down, or worse, stopping us from writing altogether.
When I first self-published Storyteller, it took a long time to get my first review. The jist of it was, “Meh, its ok.” At least, that’s what I took away from it. Needless to say, I was hoping for a little better than 'meh'. Actually, I was crushed. And that was from someone who probably thought they were being kind. I can’t imagine what I would have done if that someone had been actually trying to hurt my feelings. I’ve always been a sensitive person and I can take a lot of things to heart – way too many things- but I’m getting better at separating myself from criticism. At least I think I am. I guess we’ll see how I do when Hush Puppy is released and the first reviews come in.
A few years back, I facilitated a Dove Real Beauty Workshop for Girls. What’s that and what does it have to do with criticism? A lot actually. The workshop teaches girls how to deal with all the messages they get each day, both positive and negative, but the advice is excellent for anyone of any age. I love the message so I’m going to pass it along to you.
Imagine yourself in a giant bubble, everywhere you go. This is your personal space bubble. It protects you. You decided what to let into your bubble and what to keep out. Let in the good things around you: supportive friends and family. Reject the bad things, in this case: unconstructive criticism that only seeks to unsettle you or separate you from your dreams. We don’t want to completely shut ourselves off from constructive criticism, but we should be selective as to whom we let into our bubble.
My favorite writer about writing, Brenda Ueland, says this:
"The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out. And if you have no such friend, -and you want to write, -well then you must imagine one."
If you haven’t read her book "If you want to write: a book about art, independence, and spirit" , I urge you to check it out. I’ve raved about it in posts before, so I won’t do it here. I’ll just say there are some lovely passages. Whenever I get discouraged about my writing, I open it up and quickly find comfort.
And if you find yourself the subject of unwanted criticism, decide what to accept and what to disregard. The choice is truly yours.