This may sound completely absurd, but criticism is actually a good thing. And I don't just mean the good criticism that you get from critique partners, although that is very important as well. I am talking about the kind of criticism that comes from critics. The kind of criticism that can sting, or more accurately burn you to your core. The kind of criticism that you will find in newspapers and magazines and blogs. So, how can this sometimes hurtful, sometimes outright mean-spirited, criticism be good? Especially when it makes you feel so crappy and causes many panic attacks and results in many authors giving up on their craft altogether. Well, the first thing you have to do is not take the critique at face value.
Now, don't get me wrong, I’m not coming from a “sticks and stones” point of view. You will never be able to look at a bad review and say, “well that’s just one person’s opinion” or “well I don't ever agree with their critiques anyway.” When you see a scathing review of your work you are going to want to curl up in a ball, shut yourself away from the outside world and never write another word.
This is normal, and in some ways justifiable. So take five minutes to do that, then breathe and listen to what I am about to say.
There will always be bad reviews. There will always be people who do not like what you write, sometimes they will even be people that you respect. This is inevitable. But, think about what a negative review really means.
It means that what you wrote is causing a stir. You wrote something that people are talking about. Are some of them talking negatively about it? Yes. But is that the universal sentiment? No. Think about it, if you wrote something, and no one talked about it, what was the point? Or if everyone just LOVED it, did you really say anything that needed to be said?
Your goal as a writer should be to ignite a conversation about a subject that the world, or the country, or the city, or your small community, needs to be talking about. You should be writing on a subject that is near and dear to your heart, and you should be an expert in it. If this is true, and you have done just that, then there will be people who disagree with you, some of them vehemently. Think about it. What worthwhile conversation is one-sided?
If you write something that sparks a debate, then you have done something right as a writer. The trick is you can't let the negative critiques outweigh the good ones in your mind. One bad critique for two good ones, heck, one bad one for every good one, is good. It means that you have done your job. And really, you don't want to be praised all the time do you? That would get awfully boring, and you would never grow as a writer.
How do you deal with a bad review? Share with us in the comments section below.