Receiving Criticism: a look at proper responses

We as writers often seek audiences for our work. This part is usually the scary bit of the job because of one word: rejection. We want people to like our stuff, really badly. So much so that sometimes we don’t know how to respond to constructive criticism. I’m not talking about flamers, the people who say “this sucks!” and have nothing more to do with it; I am talking about genuine feedback that highlights the important things a writer needs to work on to move forward.

I suppose I am devoting time to this topic because of how many people I have observed that cannot take criticism to save their lives. They turtle up, retreat, lock their stories away to never see daylight again. The worst response is, I think, “you just don’t get it.”

Well… yes, I don’t get it. That’s why I have a hard time reading it in the first place. Now I am just fine with people writing whatever the hell they want and never being concerned about sharing that story successfully with an audience. The problem is that these people responding negatively to feedback are not writing for themselves in that instance. They are writing for an audeince, and they owe it to the audience to provide the tools necessary for a reader to arrive at the end of the story.

Notice I didn’t say enjoy or raptly devote themselves to. No. Sometimes you get to the end of a story, and whatever was said doesn’t settle with you. That’s fine, but there sould be palpable points of discussion to share with other readers. The readers should be able to read and get to the end of the story without wanting to stab the writer for poor style.

My problem comes in when someone shares a story that is basically a whole lot of nothing, and everyone knows it. They convey their misgivings to the author and the author just says, “Well, what I meant to do was this” and the conversation ends there.

No.

A real writer who wants an open relationship with their audience will say, “This was what I meant to get across. How do you all think I might better acheive that? Where did you fall off the wagon?” Notice that the writer is not catering to the whims of the readers, but is using them to empower their own work. And sometimes you won’t be able to incorporate all the ideas readers help you generate. Sometimes there will be one thing that one reader cannot get along with. You won’t make them all happy. But if the general consensus is “shit be whack” it is your duty as a writer to respond to that criticism and attempt to remodel your story.

Like I said before, I don’t care what you write if you’re not concerned with sharing it with an audience. The moment you want to establish a reader/writer connection, however, it is your responsibility to be open to what they have to say. Writing and reading is a conversation that occurs without vocals. We need to both speak and listen. If we never stop to listen, our readers will know we are not interested in the conversation any longer.

And then who will want to listen to us?

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3 thoughts on “Receiving Criticism: a look at proper responses

  1. Good thoughts, it is indeed important to listen to the readers. Regardless how amazing we, as writers, think our work is, there is always – always – a chance to improve upon it. I like the reader’s criticism (as long as it’s in fact criticism and not ‘flamer-style’) because, however hard it is to swallow sometimes, it’s good to see where others seem to not understand what I was trying to portray. Plus, the readers can have some pretty darn good ideas too!

    • Oh Kellie, you are always so good about taking criticism. I’m sort of railing on about some difficult people I have crossed paths with. Students especially. Grr, why don’t they pay attention in peer review?!?

      • Why thank-you. It was a good post, regardless of railing. Perhaps they were asleep that day? Or deeply invovled with their mini-mid-class conversations?

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