Wednesday, February 6, 2013
IWSG - February edition
Can you believe it's already February? That means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Check out the full list of participating blogs on Alex Cavanaugh's blog.
This month, I'd like to talk about how to handle criticism. I'm a professor, and you may know that there is a website where students rank their professors in terms of easiness, helpfulness, etc. I recently discovered that my ratings on this website are abysmally bad--these students are essentially doing the digital equivalent of burning me in effigy because I'm apparently too mean, too hard, too uncaring, too whathaveyou.
On the other end of the spectrum are the students who call or email to tell me they think I'm doing a good job. They're not quite as vocal as the haters, but there is definitely a non-zero number of people who like what I'm doing and want me to continue.
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I am not the 'worst professor evah' but neither am I the greatest. I am human, which means I'm going to have bad days and make mistakes, and that's okay.
I think the same is true for writing. There are going to be people who absolutely love what you write, and they can't wait for you to put something else out so they can read that, too. These fans sit on the edge of their seats in breathless anticipation as you spin magic from your keyboard.
Then there are the people who hate your work, who think you're the worst, most untalented hack to ever pick up a pen. These are the criticisms that are going to stick with you, that will keep you up at night and make you wonder if everyone else feels like that, too.
I'm not saying we need to dismiss our critics. Far from it--I think it's important to try to parse out the truths in any critique. There is, however, a nice way to criticize, and a not-so-nice way to criticize. I most definitely prefer constructive feedback, but not everyone will provide that and sometimes I have to put on my armor and wade through the thicket of snarkiness, looking for the nuggets of truth that I can polish up and put to good use.
It's important not to let the haters get you down though. There will always be negativity, there will always be snark, there will always be someone who enjoys crushing the dreams of others. You can get a thousand compliments, but it's always the insult that sticks with you the longest. The trick is to let it go.
And if you figure out how to do that, I hope you'll share your secret :)