Criticism, or the fear of it, can lead to the problem we discussed yesterday: perfection paralysis. Yes, you want to make your work as perfect as possible. Yes, you should pay attention to detail. But often, there is a little, nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you that you just aren’t good enough. Is it a parent? A former teacher? A friend? Your boss?
For all of us, there is someone, somewhere, who made us feel that we just could
So how do you deal with criticism? The first thing to remember is that everyone makes mistakes. A book is a large project with thousands of paragraphs, sentences, words, commas and periods. That is hundreds of thousands of places to make a tiny mistake. You want your book to be read not just by a few people, but by hundreds. That means that you will have hundreds of individual eyes looking over your work and judging you. Wow! Did I just scare you? I think I even scared myself.
As a journalist for a daily newspaper, I quickly learned that while everyone makes a mistake at work, I would publish my mistakes in the newspaper for everyone in the community to read. Talk about perfection paralysis. It nearly stopped me. The first time my editor had to publish a retraction for an error I had made I was terrified. Was he going to fire me? How would I ever hold my head up in the newsroom again?
Luckily, an older, wiser reporter took me aside and told me about the number of times she had made mistakes. “You are writing several articles every day. It’s going to happen. Do the best you can and always, always double check your work. Then, when you do make a mistake, listen to the criticism, accept the good in it, and move on.”
Have you ever noticed that the best advice is hard to follow?
When you do receive criticism the first thing to do is separate the advice from the tone. Often, even the most well intentioned criticism sounds, well, critical. Or even mean and vindictive. And sometimes it is. The problem is, the person critiquing you usually has at least a grain of truth in his or her remarks. Find the truth, make good use of it, and dismiss the rest.
It is the only thing to do if you want to be an author.
Keep on writing!
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While looking for a quote to go with this article I came across, Elbert Green Hubbard (June 19, 1856 – May 7, 1915), an American writer and publisher. He is best known as founder of the Roycroft artisan community in East Aurora, New York, which was influential in the Arts and Crafts Movement. His writings include the nine-volume work Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great and the short story A Message to Garcia. He died aboard the RMS Lusitania, which was sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915.