Criticism, and the ability to handle it, is probably what separates most aspiring writers from most working writers. The inability to let anyone else read your work for fear they won’t like it is pretty much a hindrance to ever getting paid to write. Similarly, “safe,” bland writing, with all the soul and personality of an insurance adjuster on Valium, is not likely to win you any gigs, either.
To be any good, you have to be personally invested in the work you produce. I’m often surprised at my coworkers’ expectations when I get feedback and critique from clients on my writing. I think they’re expecting me to get all neurotic and defensive. I usually just say “It’s only copy. It’s not personal.” That statement both is and isn’t true.
What I write is my opus, in a sort of Jungian sense. Aggregately, it makes up my personal body of work. It’s not “just copy,” and it does matter to me personally, as a whole, and in considering each individual finished piece. But I don’t take criticism of what, for a sculptor, would be a rough piece of unfinished raw material (otherwise known as a “first draft”) personally. I also don’t expect that each piece, even when finished and “released into the wild” of social media or even the more static web, will make everyone happy or be a study in perfection.
I do take the criticism, for the same reason my kids take the medicine I give them when they get sick. Because it’ll make you better.
Not all criticism is valid, or valuable. But a writer in any media who can’t do anything but get defensive and deflect criticism is “protecting” herself from what could be the most valuable tool in improving the overall quality of her work.
It’s probably not too surprising to hear that I received some criticism of my work today. It was valid, valuable criticism, and it immediately prompted me to do better. Did I enjoy getting it? Sure. And right afterwards, I had to zip off to get my halo polished and my wings waxed.
But seriously, if someone gives you honest criticism, they’re giving you a gift. You just have to be big enough to handle it, take it in, and apply as necessary. I’m a better writer today because of the criticism I received yesterday, and I’ll be a better writer tomorrow because of today’s feedback.
And when I get home, I can just pop in Oblivion and hack goblins to bits to work out that lingering post-graciously-handled-criticism aggression.