Monday, November 16, 2009
Learning to Crave Criticism
By Elaine Creasman
2010 FCWC staff member
“I’ll never show anything to that editor again,” I vowed after reading his critique at one of the first writers’ conferences I attended: “This article is preachy and negative.”
For months I stewed. Then a gentle whisper came: “What that editor said is true.”
I looked objectively at the article and prayed for God’s help. Back at the same conference two years later, I gave the same editor a piece on the same subject–grief. He bought my article on the spot and many more in years to come.
In my 23 years of leading a critique group and over ten years of being on staff and helping with manuscripts at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I’ve met many writers who become defensive or crushed when someone critiques their work. Here are tips to help you move from hating and resisting criticism to craving and benefitting from it.
SEE CRITICISM AS A GOOD THING.
“I haven’t written in two years,” admitted a friend. “I brought a poem to a writers’ conference, and an editor wrote a two-page critique. I was devastated.”
Having become more mature when it came to criticism, my first thought was, “Wow! That experienced writer and editor wrote a critique that long? It must be a great poem.”
I read the excellent poem and what the editor wrote, then explained why a two-page critique from this editor was a good thing. She returned to writing and has had many pieces published since.
SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM YOUR WRITING.
A piece of writing can seem like your baby. None of us likes having our child criticized.
I’ve learned to view what I write as a gift from God, just as Scripture tells me my children are a gift from Him. (See Psalm 127:3 TLB) And just as I’ve released my children to God repeatedly, I’ve learned to release my writing. Lately I’ve thought: what I write doesn’t come from me, but through me.
AVOID SEEING CRITIQUERS AS ENEMIES.
My earlier delusion was that editors delight in rejecting writers and telling them what’s wrong with their writing.” The truth is most find great joy in helping writers succeed. Editors and fellow writers who critique my manuscripts are like personal trainers who assist clients in working on “trouble spots.”
People willing to honestly critique what I write are my allies. A quote by Abraham Lincoln opened my eyes to that: “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”
PRAY FOR A TEACHABLE HEART.
A teachable heart is a key to writing success. Those willing to learn are also eager to improve. And editors–like teachers–enjoy working with eager learners.
Proverbs 19:20 reminds me to maintain a teachable heart and be open to criticism. “Hear counsel, receive instruction, accept correction, that you may be wise...” (AMP)
SEE WRITING AS COLLABORATION.
All writing is a collaborative effort. Many people contribute--the pastor who sparked the idea and authors I quote in my pieces. Then there are members of my critique group, friends who help with final edits, and editors who give excellent suggestions for rewrites. When I see writing as collaboration, I don’t have an “all mine” attitude, and I welcome input from others.
Criticism in the form of honest critiques has helped make me a better writer and to sell what I’ve written. I thank God for those who have the courage and honesty to offer it. Yes, it can sometimes hurt, but if taken the right way, as a friend put it: “It hurts real good.”
Elaine Creasman has written for over 30 Christian publications and local newspapers. She has contributed to numerous gift books and writes greeting card verses. She has led the Suncoast Christian Writers Group since 1986 and lives in Largo, Florida with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter. She also works part-time as a mental health tech. Visit www.elainecreasman.com.