I’ll admit it, I love watching those reality shows where people sing and then other people judge and then someone gets critiqued and/or voted off. I love them because they are fun to watch but also because I see some similarities between shows like that and being a writer.
Finding What Your Strength Is
The most common thing in common is that people are judged for their creative work. With singing, judges can determine if someone was off the mark, if their performance was perhaps not technically the best but inspiring nonetheless, or just brilliant. Sometimes, judges differ on this, which goes to show that creativity is very personal and subjective.
The same is true with the writing world. While we all need to know the “rules” and “mechanics” of writing, we also need to know what our own personal strengths are and how to make use of what we’re best at. When we know what we rock at, we can capitalize on it.
One of the things that amazes me is how gracefully (or not) some of these contestants take their criticism. I know, it’s hard. Believe me, I know! But you have to take it all in stride, because if you lip off at the judges, that’s what they will remember about you instead of your performance.
With writing, one way to deal with criticism is to expect it. This isn’t a defeatist attitude, but realistic. You can’t get everyone in the world to like your writing, no matter how great it is, because they have a preference for something else. Here’s how I deal with criticism:
- Anticipate it. Based on the reality that there will always be a certain percentage of people who won’t like what you do. (In other words, don’t work to please them, but let it go and focus on pleasing those who will enjoy your words.)
- Shake it off. Everyone has an opinion, and one person’s opinion isn’t more important than someone else’s.
- Remember The Four Agreements. The Four Agreements says that you should never take anything personally, even when someone makes it personal. Even when someone says something good. When someone makes their criticism personal (i.e., “you’re a terrible writer, you’re stupid, you’re… etc.) it’s not about you. It’s about them.
- Remember that not everyone can articulate their displeasure. So when you get a bad review that says “it sucked,” just roll with it. You know your writing doesn’t suck, but perhaps the person reading it just couldn’t put into detail why they didn’t like it. Maybe they didn’t want to put it into detail. That’s their choice.
- Look for the helpful or constructive parts of criticism, and think about them. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to change your writing based on negative reviews, but it does mean that if there is a nugget in there that is true, perhaps you should consider what it means for your writing.
- Know that everyone gets criticized sooner or later. Consider yourself part of a club.
Get the Crowd Involved
Have you ever seen a singer get ripped by the judges, and simply say to the crowd, “I had a blast with you guys tonight!” or “I think my fans enjoyed it!” They know that what the judges say is important, but what pleases their fans is even more important. Take your focus off the “judges” and the criticism and focus on your fans. If you don’t have fans yet, focus on the people you envision to be your fans.
Come Back Out Strong
Have you ever seen one of your favorite singers just completely suck at one performance, and then make it another week and have to try again? They have to shake off the bad performance and give the next one their all. They have to act as if they never failed, and instead have a new opportunity to do something great.
You need to do this, too. Forget about the criticism, and when you sit behind that keyboard, know that you have another chance to get it right.