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  • October 1st, 2008 | 6:13 PM
Writing tip Wednesday

There's still a little bit of Wednesday left here in California so here's this Wednesday's writing tip.

In honor of [info]beckylevine and her book sale, today's tip has to do with criticism.

As writers we all have to deal with criticism of some kind or another. Most of the time, I hope, it is of a constructive kind. A teacher or a critique friend points out how we can make a story stronger. But sometimes it feels like there are people who really do want us to fail just so they can say mean things to us. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had that kind of experience.) So here are a couple of my thoughts on criticism.

We can't avoid criticism. When you try to avoid criticism you give energy to the negative comments and that takes the energy away from your real work.

It's a waste of creative energy to avoid or argue with criticism from experts and critics. We are all entitled to our opinions.

The verb criticize was originally neutral between praise and censure. When you critique you're supposed to apply critical thinking to a work in order to analyze and interpret the work. Alas, for many of us, the word "criticize" has evolved into a negative definition.

Early on in my career I received some helpful criticism on one my books from a generous editor. She pointed out the good and the bad of my book and encouraged me to rework it and submit again. Because I was so new to the business and so hyper-sensitive to criticism, the only word I heard of her 2 page single-space revision letter was "no." Years later I found that letter and realized that she had been offering me the opportunity to improve my work and possibly make a sale. I have never looked at rejection the same way since.

You may not like the initial feeling of being criticized but you will always learn from it, even if it is only how NOT to criticize someone else.
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There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 7 comments — Leave comment )
October 2nd, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
Considering you're talking about rejection and criticism I'm going to leave you an ironic, complimentary comment. ;-)

I just read Hugging the Rock this week and oh, it nearly made me cry. My dad worked a LOT when I was a kid and I didn't see much of him growing up, and while the situation was quite different than the one in the book, I thought you perfectly captured the nuances of a father-daughter relationship that is loving yet not as close as one wishes, like I felt, in certain spots. It was really emotional for me to read because I love my Dad and I wish I'd had more time with him as a kid. He's much more available now, but it's also harder to build the relationship in a closer way later in life. Anyway...your book rang true.
October 3rd, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
Oh thank you for this so much. I really needed some happy thoughts tonight. I guess all those years imagining a dad paid off for me. :-)
October 2nd, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Susan, great post. Obviously, I feel there's a huge difference between a criticism and a critique. The first one, even if well-meant, too often has only negative impact. A critique can send me home from my group motivated, inspired, and completely jazzed up to go after a new idea.

You're right,though. Unfortunately, we can't avoid the criticism. We can try, though, not to listen too hard to it.
October 3rd, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
We all need your book so much.

I've spent too much time, wasted too much time, fretting over someone's critque. My first critique group meeting ever, 25 years ago, I barely made it back out to my car before I burst into tears.
(Deleted comment)
October 3rd, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)
Re: Oh Susan...
Thank you for the hugs. They are always welcome.

I hope some of what I share is helpful to some folks. Maybe when I am living the freelance life more, maybe I'll learn more (remember more?) that I can pass on. :-)

October 2nd, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)
That's a great tip, Susan.
October 3rd, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)
Thanks, Barb!
( 7 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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"As writers, we must be willing to feel our sadness, our anger, our terror, so we can reach in and find our sweet vulnerability that is just sitting there waiting for us to come back home."
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"Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is."
--Anne Rice


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