Resistance makes you better. Criticism (from an honest reader) forces you to close gaps, fix inconsistencies, and throw whole sections away that you labored over for hours. More than that, when you wrap up a draft and hand it off to that honest and able critic, and they are unable to pick holes in your narrative, then your confidence can blossom. Look to the three little pigs for wisdom, and don’t blame the critic when your lovely straw house whistles away around your ears. And don’t be disappointed either. Criticism is your friend, even when it burns. It is gravity to your architecture. Wind to your paper kite.Read the whole thing. Especially helpful is Wilson’s suggestion of a third way, one that seeks cool-headed understanding rather than retreating into self-flagellation or outright aggression.
We’ve already sorted aspiring writers into groups, let’s honor the tradition and do it one more time.
Group One: Some aspiring writers are desperate for criticism. Really, truly desperate. They bite your ankle and won’t let go until you agree to read their stuff. But when you do read their stuff -- and you tell them exactly what’s wrong with it -- you find out that they weren’t desperate for criticism at all. They were desperate for affirmation. Better (or worse), they were desperate for your connections. They wanted help, a step up, a solid plug at the old house. When they get criticism instead, the hackles rise, the gums recede (yes, the gums), etc.
Group Two: Other writers are almost ashamed to show you their stuff. They hang their heads in shame ("Yes, I wrote a novel. Don’t tell.") If you read their fiction and give them some blow-back, the weakness continues. "I’m sure you’re right. It’s probably terrible." They don’t even try to stand up for their work. Push against the criticism, please! No reader is infallible. Fight back. Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong, but don’t assume that you are. Criticism doesn’t improve you unless you lean against it.
(Picture: CC 2005 by dps)