How Do You Survive Criticism?

This post, by Andrew E. Kaufman, originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Collective blog on 4/18/12 and is reprinted here in its entirety with that site’s permission.

Being a writer means being vulnerable. I’m talking, rip your shirt open, aim your chest toward the heavens, and let the vultures have at it. I learned long ago that if I wanted to be an author, I’d have to accept this fact. And while, for the most part, people are wonderful, there will always be haters; they’re everywhere. And yes, they do suck.

 
Of course, accepting this philosophy is one thing. Surviving it is another. We, as authors, are human. We’re a sensitive lot. We pour our hearts and souls  onto the pages, and taking criticism, regardless of how much truth there is to it, isn’t easy. But we all have to endure it, whether it’s a nasty review, email, or passing remark. Friends, both readers and writers, often ask how I cope with that. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I deal with it. I have no choice. I’ve developed a coping strategy. Sometimes it even works:

 

  1.  Accept that this is the nature of the beast. Simply put, if you can’t handle criticism, you’ve chosen the wrong business. This is not brain surgery; this is the arts, and being as such, not only must you accept criticism, you should expect it. 
     
  2. Take what you can use, throw away the rest. Constructive criticism is always welcome. I know I’ll never stop growing as a writer, and growing means listening. Besides, who better to give feedback than the readers? I consider them experts and their input important. If something resonates with me, I take it to heart. If it doesn’t, I respectfully consider it a difference of opinion and move on. I’ve learned a lot from my readers and I hope I never stop. 
     
  3. The exact moment someone gets nasty is the exact moment I realize it’s not about the book. It’s about them. When somebody becomes belligerent or starts calling names, I know there’s something else at work, that their motivation is more than likely coming from a bad place. Constructive criticism is thoughtful. Hate requires none. 
     
  4.  Not everyone is going to like my couch, and that’s okay. I look at it this way: tastes vary widely from person to person. If I bought a new couch—one I found particularly cool and awesome—and showed it to fifty different people, it’s a sure bet I’d get fifty different opinions. Some would love it, some would feel indifferent about it, and yes, some might even hate it. Does that make it a bad couch? Nope (of course, if everyone hated it, then I’d have to do some rethinking about my couch, just as I would with my book). But someone is bound to hate it. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. That’s called life. 
     
  5. Take pride. Anyone who has written a novel knows what a ridiculously difficult job it can be, but it’s also a huge accomplishment. I am by no means perfect, nor would I ever delude myself into thinking I produce perfect work. But I do take great pride in it. I trust my instincts. Even more important, I live for the process, and nobody can take that away from me. Whether I have one reader or thousands, whether people love my books or hate them, I will always write,  always love writing, and will always, every step of the way, enjoy the journey. 

What about you? How do you cope with criticism?

 

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