Last week I wrote about teaching writing and had this question: Why is writing such a terrifying topic? I published my post, published my website, and shared it to Facebook. Done!
Lo and behold, I got a (truly) lovely message from my uncle telling me that he liked the site, appreciated the commentary, but maybe, perhaps, I should possibly, maybe, think about having an editor… maybe.
My initial reaction was to be hurt. He was telling me what I made wasn’t OK!
But he also wasn’t wrong. I went back to check my latest post, and guess what? I had some mistakes. Some glaring mistakes that I should have caught.
And of course, it’s the post on writing being a terrifying topic. Here I was in the middle of answering my own question without even realizing it. Writing is terrifying because you made it. It came from your heart and your brain and you created it all on your own. Anyone can tell you it’s not good or it’s wrong or you didn’t do it correctly. That is an overwhelmingly awful thought.
Criticism isn’t fun. No one wants to hear about what they’ve done wrong. Criticism is beneficial, though. It can help us to improve our work, build trusting relationships with our readers, and refine our writing to better express our thoughts. But it’s so hard not to take things personally.
As Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (who I very much hope is a distant relative of mine) says, we’re feeling creatures with the ability to think. We first feel and then have the ability to think things through. Below is a Ted Talk she gave on this very idea. In the video she is speaking to teenagers, but as a person who feels emotionally very much like a teenager most of the time, I took her words to heart.
When hearing criticism that gives you a knot in your stomach, you can think of her suggestion and say to yourself: “I have the ability to consciously choose. I have other circuits I can run.” I can choose to be OK and use this criticism to help myself.
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable about taking a critique, but I can definitely learn to appreciate it in time.