3 simple truths about criticism we often forget


Rejection. Bad review. Returned papers and manuscripts. All these essentially we consider as a bad news. And it’s not fun to experience it. You feel naked and exposed, your heart is pounding, probably you are blushing and even feel embarrassed. “How did this happen“, you might slur for a second, but the only thing you can actually think of is how hurt, disappointed and discouraged at the moment you are.

Today I want to share with you a different look at the criticism that might help you deal with these situations easier in the future.

I believe, the first and foremost thing we need to do is to accept that it is simply inevitable –  there is very small likelihood that everybody will like and approve of your writing. As we are able to appreciate praise for our work so there is also the other side of the coin: we need to face there is always a chance that someone will not find our work suitable.

The second truth we often forget is that there is nothing personal about it. There is no conspiracy against you and your work. Nobody hates your poems and your stories are not boring. But the problem here is that we as writers always offer something that is part of us – thoughts, emotions or knowledge. Any criticism that comes our way, we might translate as a personal attack – to some point that many writers give up creating at all.

One simple thought that helped me a lot at the beginning of my academic career is that any professor, writer or reviewer of my work was also a beginner. He was also rejected and criticized. With years, I managed to write and work with many people I admired as a student. But it takes time and persistence.

Another thing I learned along the way is to differentiate constructive criticism and when someone is just plain rude. These are two completely opposite things: constructive criticism is oriented towards offering helpful insights and advice, while when someone just bashes your work to satisfy their own ego issues – well these type of people you want to avoid completely. These are all merely opinions and you always have the opportunity to explore the source – where is this criticism coming from, is it really applicable to your work, how reviewer /editor is really competent to analyze your type of work. And from that point decide how to accept or deal with criticism.

The third truth that will serve you the most is – take what you can from that experience and simply let go. In order to continue writing and creating, this is the crucial step. If you got honest feedback about your work, take a step back and think how it can help you in your future work; how you can use it to improve your writing and creativity.

Any negative situation is your chance to learn and grow. You are the only one in charge of your self-confidence, so keep writing.

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18 thoughts on “3 simple truths about criticism we often forget

  1. Another excellent and thought provoking post Maja. I think the important point you raise here is establishing what feedback is constructive and what is ego driven. If I find a piece of feedback raises the blood pressure I tend to step away from it and return to it a few days later. There is always something positive to be drawn from most feedback and giving some distance allows you to approach it in a different light.

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  2. This is very helpful. I have recently learned to come to terms with the first point, that is inevitable. It really does take a lot of pressure off of you. Thank you so much for writing this 🙂

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  3. One thing I always keep in mind is that no book is universally liked. It is hard taking criticism of your own work, but I sometimes look at books that I love and think are just the best and go read some of their 1 star reviews. It’s surprising how what I thought was great someone else thought was garbage, but it’s easier to read it when it’s on someone else’s work. So I try to keep that in mind. Other big famous authors who are thriving in the industry get plenty of criticism. They handled all the bad and used it to make good and since I want to be one of them one day that’s what I got to do too.

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