Today was the first day in two weeks that I put pen to paper and wrote something new. The reason, I was learning how to deal with criticism. I decided a couple of weeks ago to get a professional critique on two of my poems. These were poems that were rejected for publication so I thought they would perfect to send off. My reason behind the professional critique was that I really want to have a book of poetry published by an Irish publisher. I love poetry and for me it is one of the easiest things to write. I can pen a poem in a matter of minutes and I really love it.
So anyway, I sent these two poems off for critique, paid the fee, and waited for my reply. It came and so too did the appearance of my inner critic. Now like any writer, I’m used to my inner critic but for some reason after receiving the professional critique I couldn’t shut her up. There was no silencing her now and I listened her ranting and raving for days about how bad my work was, how I would never be a published poet, and how I should have known better than to think my writing might have any merit. I know you’re probably thinking my critique was bad, but it really wasn’t, it was just my interpretation of it. Below is a quote from the first couple of lines of my critique:
[su_quote cite=”Adam Wyeth”]This is a lovely piece, showing a writer of great sensitivity and care and a lot of potential. I like the idea of hope that is contained in this; listening to the elements to receive answers is a strong one. There’s a great feeling of catharsis, of working through something, this is one of great aspects of all creativity. I think those last two lines sum up the poem very well… However,[/su_quote]
As you can see, it’s not bad, but of course being the writer and cynic that I am, I focused on everything that came after the “however”. I have included the rest of the paragraph in the next quote:
[su_quote cite=”Adam Wyeth”]However, while I’m in tandem with the emotion and sentiment of this piece and can see a writer with lots of talent, the writing itself is what needs quite a bit of work. While I can see a natural flair and fluency with language and imagery there is also a lack of precision and focus. [/su_quote]
My excitement of having a professional critique certainly left after reading this. I was completely disheartened. I felt like a failure and of course my inner critic was loving it. She was relishing in the fact that my dreams were being crushed. I went off, had a cup of tea, did my usual work and then sent the critique to one of my writing friends to get her comments. That was probably the best thing I did, as she came back with super positive comments and pointed out that the critique itself was very positive and very helpful. I re-read Adam’s email and could see it for myself. While he said my writing needed work he also pointed out all the positives in the poem and even went through it line by line, advising where it could be strengthened, where words could be omitted, and how I could make it the best it could be. I felt so much better but it still didn’t persuade me to write anything new.
So how did I deal with it and get to the stage where I actually wrote something new today? Let me share my tips.
Tips For Writers on How to Deal With Criticism
Avoid focusing on the negative aspects: This is something I should have done from the moment I received the comments on my poem. Unfortunately, like most people when dealing with criticism, I focused on the negative, on the words that came after “however”. Doing this put me in a flunk and I felt useless. I felt like my writing was crap and that I was wasting my time trying to go after my dreams. When I did start to look at only the positive aspects my mindset changed.
Find the positives: This is really important. All professional critique will have some positives and you need to focus on these before you let yourself get lost in the negatives. Spend time letting the positives sink in before you even think about reading the negatives.
Follow any instructions for improvement: This probably should go without saying but if you do spend money on a professional critique then be sure to follow through on the suggestions you receive. Adam suggested that I avoid the use of adverbs and focus more on bringing the senses into my piece. It was very good advice and when I took the time to really read his suggestions and follow his instructions my poem really came to life. I was able to re-write it and if I’m completely honest, it is a much better piece of writing now.
Don’t Listen to your Inner Critic: This one can be hard. We all have that little voice inside that says we’re not good enough and the key is to be able to silence that voice. Even if you can’t silence it, have a discussion and tell your inner critic to shut up that you are going for your dreams no matter what. It sounds daft but it works.
Don’t Give up and Don’t take Criticism Personally: Finally you need to distance yourself from any criticism and remember that it is the writing that is being critiqued, not you as a person. Again this is hard to do but a little pep talk can work wonders.
So that’s my tips on how to deal with criticism. I hope you found them useful. As for me, I am happy to say that I am back on track with my writing. I wrote two new poems today that turned out wonderfully and I remembered all the tips and advice Adam had given me in my critique. I even sent the poems off to one of the literary journals, so fingers crossed I will have some more publishing news to share shortly. Until then, I am anxiously awaiting the publication of my poem “The Book” in the Summer Solstice edition of Mused: BellaOnline Literary Review Magazine that will be available on the 20th June, 2016.
Until next time,