Just yesterday I received a pretty nasty comment about a piece I wrote on the blog. To be honest , I’ve never really been good at handling criticism.
All of us are fiercely protective of our nuggets of creativity (be it anything – a story, poem, essay or artwork). So taking criticism about something so hallowed is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. I’m no great writer, but somehow I was mighty pissed off by the venom in the comment I received. It was all the more upsetting as it reaffirmed my own doubts about my writing skills.
I truly believe that a writer must be unfettered by the fear of criticism to give his best. As a friend of mine rightly put, ‘’ Who are we to judge or question the emotions that give birth to true art?’’
But after cooling off my heels a bit, at being scoffed at on a public forum, a logical introspection led me to admit that honest criticism does go a long way in bettering yourself as a writer. It is the only way by which you get to gauge, how your piece connects with the readers. Every comment you receive, however critical, gives you newer avenues to experiment and explore as a writer. Criticism is what keeps us from falling into the illusive world of self deception.
One might still argue that writing to express is more important than writing to impress. But ultimately, it all comes down to the story that you bring into the world. In that perspective, the reader’s honest feedback is of immense value.
I’m sure even the best of writers out there sometimes feel angry, frustrated and plain sad being at the receiving end of criticism. I even know a few who, having faced rejections and criticism have simply chickened out, having decided that they were shitty writers who would never make it out there in the literary world. Why, I’ve been on the brink of taking such a step many a time before as well!
But before you throw in the towel for good, it makes sense to evaluate the kind of criticism you’ve garnered for your piece. It could be a genuine constructive feedback, a purely malicious one or a mixture of both. Without doubt, in the case of constructive criticism, It would be best to try keeping your ego out of the picture and taking it as a reflection of your piece and not as a reflection of yourself as a writer!! It’s simply like , you give it your best, take in the feedback, do it over and give it another shot! And when criticism is mingled with nastiness, it is important that you cut through and see if at all it holds any value, beyond its obvious nastiness.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. Some people may simply loathe your work for the heck of it! At times it is healthier to simply cut out feedback which isn’t beneficial to you. The nasty comment I received on my work, was in no way constructive and was more of a personal attack that made me fume and kept me away from writing for days! Of late I find such trolling all too common – the internet is a snug place for trolls who easily hide behind the anonymity it provides.
If in spite of all this , if you find yourself pissed off or disappointed , try this trick. It always has worked for me – simply take a break from writing for a few hours. Go or a walk, watch your favourite TV show, run errands, read an all time favourite book, call up and talk to a good friend (but not about the criticism you received!), or better still , simply click on the ‘spam’ button ;-)You can do just about anything that’ll help you take the sting out.
All I can say to aspiring writers like me out there, is simply this – Always understand that it is easier to tear down something than create something of value. There is no such standard template for good writing and bad. Some stories are good and some are simply better. You might give your story all you have, you might even consider it your masterpiece, but remember, there simply is a better story out there. It is a bitter pill to swallow for a writer, but it is the truth. So the question of whether you are ‘good enough’ is really moot .
While it is romantic to believe that creativity is innate, that it flows naturally like a river and that inspiration is divine, I personally believe that it is a product of hard work, pure and simple.
Many of us may shrug it all off saying, it is all a matter of opinion anyway. I agree. Each to their own.
Writing is indeed a crazy journey and it pays off if in the long run if you manage to grow into some ‘Rhino-skin’!!