Criticism – how do you like it?

I was talking with my broadcasting-buddy-to-be Krystina Kellingley the other day.  This autumn, date to be confirmed, we’re going to be co-hosting a creative writing show on Beyond Radio (see ‘get your material on air if you’re interested). We’re both super-excited and had a coffee-fuelled hour sketching out running orders and such like.

Inevitably talk turned to writing and the various tribulations we are each negotiating at the moment. Krystina is an experienced and published author and works within the industry as an editor and copy editor, but even someone who has reached those heady heights has demons to fight it seems. But this is not Krystina’s blog….its all about me  (me me me me me me me) so let me tell you what I struggle with – criticism.

I get it

I get it – by which I mean I both ‘get it’ (receive criticism) and ‘get it’ (know that it’s important).  I’ve learned a huge amount of ‘stuff’ since I started to take myself (too) seriously as a writer….technical stuff about writing, how to approach an agent (still waiting), the meaning of life etc…..but the most difficult lesson has (and still is) how to deal with criticism.

I’ve always had an ego the size of a planet. I think that’s something that’s really helped me jump in at the deep end all my life; I have this ‘youngest son’ confidence that tells me I can do anything.  I definitely wouldn’t have got into writing novels without it. Something I’ve learned more recently though is that my massive ego has only an eggshell for protection; the slightest criticism leaves me standing in a puddle of congealing yolk.

How dare they…! I’ve worked like a dog on my material, blessed them with the opportunity to read and comment on it, and rather than say “really great Adam, really really great. Perfect in every way in fact” – like they were supposed to, I get a load of tosh about how a plot-point makes no sense and how a character doesn’t ‘feel’ right.

What! I’ve been up every morning at 05:30 working on this stuff, what do you mean “doesn’t feel right”!

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Works for me

Well….the penny dropped for me when I realised that every opinion coming my way had the potential to make my material stronger.

I’ve had to pretend to be a much better person than I am when I’m given criticism. I’ve had to reach for the mop and clean up the spilled yolk and egg goop as best I can.

I guess what’s worked for me is the thought that above all else, the thing that’s most important to me, is that my story is told, and that I tell it as well as I am able. My ego is not what’s important, it’s all about the story. All the subjective opinions of the folk who kindly agree to take the time to read and comment on my material, need to be weighed, considered and unpicked with this in the front of my mind.

So that’s how I deal with it now – I take the comments on the chin. I don’t argue with those generous souls who have given me their time and attention, or try to justify or defend my material, I listen, I nod, I make a note and I say thanks (and mean it). Then I sift, think, consider, sleep on it, do it all again and go back and make what I write better.

I don’t know how you deal with (constructive) criticism of your material, I’d love to hear – but that’s my take.

What have I learned…?

It’s tough to take criticism, but its a skill you need to master if you want to write to your potential.

(so go and find yourself a mop)

Until we meet again….all good things to you.

Adam

(you have the right to write)

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