Looking In/Looking Out – Taking Criticism

By Amanda Smyth Connor1116094_the_buddha_of_happiness

Constructive criticism is equally as helpful as it can be hurtful. Being able to take criticism and apply it to your craft is one of the toughest lessons to learn, and for those who are new to the freelance business (or any business for that matter) taking criticism from an editor, boss or even a coworker can plant the seed of doubt in your mind and can create insecurity instead of fostering growth.

There are two ways to handle constructive criticism.

1. The Good Way: Let’s say your boss comes to you with a list of ways in which your writing needs work. Hopefully, you have a great editor who has tact and can approach the situation with a fair balance of what you do well coupled with what needs improving. The best way to approach this situation is with gratitude. If your editor didn’t care, they wouldn’t be passing along their assessment.

Listen carefully to what they have to say and thank them for their feedback. Ask questions so that you have a clear understanding of what exactly needs improving and let them know that you value their feedback. Then, let the feedback marinate. Go home and sleep on it.

In the morning, review the feedback you received and try to look at yourself the way your editor views you. Do you find yourself agreeing with what they had to say? How can you use this feedback to tighten up your abilities? You don’t need to implement all of this new feedback immediately, but keep it in mind and look for ways in which you can use it to grow.

2. The Bad Way: Perhaps your editor isn’t quite as tactful in their approach to providing feedback. In this situation, you’ll need to dig deep and do your best to not get defensive. This should not be a confrontational situation.

After listening to what they have to say, you go home, and instead of letting it marinate, you let the feedback fester. Instead of looking at yourself from your editor’s viewpoint, you start to feel insecure and angry. Suddenly, what began as an opportunity to grow devolves into a situation that feels more like a personal attack. The worst thing you can do here is to disregard all of the feedback and to take the stance that you are who you are and you aren’t going to change.

Which of these applies to you?

Option 2 comes far more naturally to me than option 1. I personally have to struggle to take a step back when listening to constructive criticism and it can be very difficult to look within yourself and your abilities to view yourself from someone else’s perspective.

While you do need to filter out good criticism from bad,  constructive criticism as a whole is one of the most valuable gifts you can receive as a writer. If you approach these situations with this in mind, you may find that option 1 becomes quite a bit easier to swallow.

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