Taking creative criticism (or: ouch)

Opening yourself up to criticism sucks. It’s the bread and butter of the creative industry however and you’ve got to get used to it if you’re going to do anything creative. Eventually, someone is going to tell you that your stuff is just not that good. Someone, probably more than one someone, is going to come out and say that your stuff stinks or that it’s just not that great or it needs lots of work, ect. The question is, how do you take it? The criticism gets harder the more you care about that person’s opinion.

I have a friend of mine whose opinion I respect quite a lot. He’s a published author who has sort of taken me on as a little bit of a padawan (for you star war’s geeks) or an apprentice, and has been giving me encouragement and advice about my writing. So I bit the big one and sent him one of my stories, which I considered one of my best, called The Castle on Jasper Hill and I waited to see what he had to say.

It… wasn’t entirely encouraging.

He said it was “cute” the mistakes I was making, which were rookie and reminded him a lot of mistakes he made when he was my age. He said that I had a lot of fat trimming to do and started pointing out ways for me to do it. I think it was the cute part that had me bristling like mad. Here I thought that it was one of the best works I’d done and… I wasn’t encouraged a little by the process.

Then I sat back and started thinking about it and realized it was time to toughen up my skin. I had been spending so much time trying to kick my anemic writing discipline into shape that I’d kept myself away from real criticism. I’d gone to classes where people didn’t really pitch much by way of harsh criticism in my direction. And if they did, I really didn’t care much about their opinion. Here was someone whose opinion I did care about, and I nearly ran in the other direction? It was time to thicken up a little bit.

This friend of mine and I are going to sit down over coffee to talk it over and so I can get a better idea of what he liked, what didn’t work, ect. Meanwhile, he gave me an idea of some things to work on, like how to trim the fat on my work. But I think a major thing I got out of this situation was that creative criticism is going to SUCK and it’s going to kick me in the gut every time. So if I want to get to the point where I’ll see my name on a book, published, then I’m going to have to learn and step up my game. And the only way to do that is to take what criticism is given and not balk.

Doesn’t mean it won’t smart like hell, of course. But that’s just part of the game.

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