GUEST POST: Three Things I’ve Learned about Criticism, by Desiree B

Our first “I’m at a wedding!” guest post is by Desiree B. of Inky Tavern.  I probably haven’t even left yet, so look forward to a hotel room post later.

Also, “criticism” is the word that knocked me out of the city spelling bee in fourth grade.  I’ve always hated that word.

criticism1Criticism is like zits: inevitable and difficult to ignore.

Criticism can influence the way  a person behaves or thinks. This is great when the piece of criticism you receive is meant to help you improve. However, it’s not-so-great when it’s meant to put you down.

Whenever I face criticism, I keep a few things in mind so that I don’t take them too personal.

(Before I start playing psychologist, I think it’s important to note that I am not one! These are just a few things that I’ve learned from my personal experiences.)

  1. Don’t try to please everyone because criticism is subjective.

Do you like escargot? Classical music? Yodeling? Strawberry ice cream?

I guarantee there’s another person in the world that dislikes some (if not, everything) you like. Our individuality makes us unique and influences the things that we like or dislike.

Same goes for criticism.

I wrote a gleaming review on my blog for Mark Dawson’s The Cleaner a year or two ago. I then got a comment from someone who not only disliked the book, but also felt that I was an idiot for giving it any praise (don’t you just love the internet?).

  1. If it has merit, take note. If not, don’t let it keep you up at night.

Trying to find worth in a piece of criticism is like a prospector trying to find diamonds in a clump of dirt. You have to separate the “filth” (things you took negatively) from what could be beneficial. This means putting your emotions on standby and engaging your intellectual self.

During my freshman year in college, my history professor criticized me for using too many lengthy quotes in my midterm paper. I took a deep breath and decided to see if he was right. Guess what? He was (there was one quote that took up a third of the paper—yikes!).    Lesson learned.

Not all criticisms are like this. There are those that are the worthless ramblings of a bored and conceited person. So worthless that it’s not even worth stringing sentences together to explain or your precious mental energy to decipher.

Just wave them off as you would an annoying fly (remember that comment I told you about? I moved it into the trash bin).

  1. What you mentally do with a piece of criticism is YOUR responsibility.

You can’t control what someone says or writes to you, but you can control how you process and respond to it. If you decide to get upset or cry over a piece of criticism—guess what? That was your decision. The person who criticized you can’t make you do or feel anything (unless they’re telepathic). You’re in control of those things whether you realize it or not.

Take my history midterm paper for example, I chose to approach my professor’s criticism in an analytical manner. I didn’t cry over it or secretly kill him in my novel (lol!).

So there you have it! The three truths (and lessons) that I’ve learned about criticism. While I can’t say that the way I deal with criticism will work for you, I can say that they may be worth keeping in mind. Who knows, maybe they’ll change your life.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

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