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Rolling With the Critical Punches

Criticism what's it all about then?

"The trouble with most of us is we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism"

Well it is something we, as writers are exposed to daily. We may receive reviews, we may hear news, we have visitors to our pages, comments and conversations on Facebook. All the time. So what do we do with it?

I have seen it in it's many forms and seen how it affects people, I have seen people fold and crumple under it's pressure, I have watched them fail. I have seem others buckle, and start to crack only to take the strain and with a growl and a grimace push it off and turn it back. Without pressure there are no diamonds, they say, no steel. Of course there are caveats, there are two forms of criticism;

  1. Destructive criticism (it's about argument and power, tear the other down to highlight your supposed superiority)

  2. Constructive criticism (try to help the recipient recognise their weaknesses so that they can improve and do better)

Now, we have a few things to consider here, some elements and things weather pressure, manage destructive forces better than others, the same applies to people. I, personally, am of the group who could not care less what people think about me personally but am smart and experienced enough to know one very, very important fact;

"I am not perfect and nothing I ever do will be"

Not ever, ever in my life will I achieve perfection in anything because no-one can, not one single living person can ever be perfect. Therefore, if someone can see something I cannot which I can consider and make my work better by taking on board, why would I not? Tell me, why? Someone walks up to me and explains how I can triple my income by working a little differently am I going to decide, purposely to earn less? Of course not, who would?

As I mentioned previously, writing is a long and lonely road. We invest ourselves in our writing, we pour our heart, our soul, our passion into it. We are heavily invested in it, it is like a child of ours. To criticise our favoured child is to insult our very being! However, if our child is engaged in behaviour which can affect his future, her very life, must we not act to save that child? Let's run with this metaphor;

We, as parents, bring our children into the world in suffering and pain. Some cost us more than others, the pain is more intense. We want our child to live long, be healthy and to be successful. This is all normal. We will spend long hours raising and instructing this child, suffering for him, suffering with her, to be sure they do well. We will often rebuke our child and show them a better path. We may see our child start to go astray but we kid ourselves, we may even lie to ourselves. Mine is a good child, incapable of evil. A day may come when another will tell us, this child is bad, this child did this, he did that, she was doing that, you did not do your job as a parent well, correct your child! We, of course bristle and react but as we sit at home in thought, looking at our child, do we ignore the signs which have been bothering us and see perfection or do we look deeper and see if we need to take responsibility now before it is too late?

Well that seriously did stretch the metaphor but you see my point, do you not? We, each and every one of us, want our work to be perfect, for people to praise it, for readers to be climbing over one another to read it. We want reviewers to fight for the right to sing of it's virtues. This is our dream and we are, let's face it, every one of us dreamers, that's all part of the business..

There are serious dangers, especially in the world of self publishing, in which many of us live, a great many dangers of such arrogance...

I have my method and my discipline when I write. I write, I edit, I check, I edit some more, I edit again, I proof read, I edit again, I print it out and go through it with a fine toothed comb. I then have someone else read it without any prior view. I go back and edit again. I do not stop until my piece is so polished it shines! Why? This represents me, this is me, how can I put in so much effort and it NOT be my best? Well I am not prefect and I, too have let mistakes; typos, malapropisms, tautologies slip through, I am human (mostly) and I err because I do, we all do. However, when I have others point out my errors, what do I do? I accept them, I filter them, I apply that which I see as beneficial and in such a way, do I grow and my writing does too!

We must learn to accept criticism, to roll with it, to go with it and to listen to it. Once we can accept that we are not perfect and nothing we ever produce will be either, we are starting to learn. I welcome criticism because I want to be among the best and accept my lack of perfection also. What about you?

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