What Writers Can Learn from Criticism

Nobody likes a critic and yet everybody is one.  We all have our opinions and some of us put them to good use by becoming critics.  Unfortunately, this means that there is a measuring stick by which your work will be judged when it comes time for you to publish.  And while there are literary critics who are good at what they do (as well as those who are not so good), it can be difficult to accept that they not only get to smash your work to smithereens if they so choose, but they may also influence the public that you depend on to support you in your publishing endeavors.  However, the cloud does have a silver lining.  Criticism, no matter how harsh or seemingly undeserved, can become a tool in your writing arsenal.  It can teach you how to see your work in a different way, learn to recognize your strength and weaknesses, and weather the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (or misfortune, as the case may be).  In short, criticism can make you a better writer.

In a perfect world, writers could look at their work and put on the additional hats of editor, critic, and audience-member.  Wouldn’t we have some magnificent texts then?  Sadly, most writers are unable to view their work through anything other than rose-colored glasses, and objectivity is about as attainable as the goose that laid the golden egg.  For this reason, editors and critics are necessary.  As a writer, it is all too easy to become married to your work and end up with several hundred pages of overwrought drivel that is all but unreadable (don’t shake your head – we’ve all been guilty of this one).  You need a guiding hand to help you see the forest for the trees and pare down your work to get to the essential core of what you’re trying to convey (with just a bit of enhancement here and there).  You want your writing to be the Renaissance (beautiful and enlightening) not the Rococo period (WAY too much embellishment).

And while criticism often comes after the fact (when your work is nearing its polished completion) the more you seek out, the better your writing will become.  By fostering an open-minded attitude when it comes to the banter of critics, you may start to see patterns in your writing that you can correct as you go along, rather than waiting for the inevitable slam-fest from your editor.  Now, this doesn’t mean you have to take abuse with a smile.  If you consider the matter and find the criticism to be flagrantly unfair, totally off-base, or simply a matter of bias, then you are more than welcome to disregard it.  However, you’ll be best served to take each piece of advice at face value and then decide if it actually applies to your work or if it is simply one person’s opinion.  By taking constructive criticism to heart, you will ultimately improve the quality of your writing, and in turn, your chances of reaching your audience, reeling them in, and building up a fan-base for future endeavors.

Sarah Danielson writes for www.tshirtprinting.net where you can design your own custom clothing at affordable prices.