Dealing With Harsh Criticism
This article is a piggyback to Humility. It was originally posted on the Henderson Writer’s Group newsletter either last year or the year before and I thought it would be good to re-run it here to supplement my first post.
Many of us that have been in this passion for a long time have had to deal with harsh criticism at one time or another. It’s inevitable that if you submit your work either to agents, publishers, or other people, someone is going to come along that doesn’t have a smidgen of tact or compassion for your feelings.
When I first came to Las Vegas, I was in the writer’s group from hell. They used to meet at the Borders at Lake Mead and Rainbow in 2002. I’ve never publicly narrowed it down before, but since I keep bringing this shining example up in other discussions, I thought it was time to let the cat out of the bag. I have yet to run across one of those people since then, anyway.
This group was based on “tough love.” The philosophy was that they were supposed to intimidate you, put you down, and make you feel as bad as possible, to “toughen you up” to the cruel world of publishing. That may not have been the actual intent, but that was the result.
The point of going to a writers group is to learn and get honest feedback on your work. If you leave every meeting mad, intimidated, and disillusioned, what is the point? At the last meeting I attended, I told them I’d be back, but as soon as I walked out of there, I realized there was no way I was returning to that kind of abuse. Whatever valid points they had were buried in all the negativity. If anything, they likely discouraged many unsuspecting new writers from going for it.
Nobody needs to take that kind of harsh criticism. That is not the way the legitimate publishers and agents work, and I’ve only run across it once in all of those 615 rejections I’ve received, so far (actually it’s 659 so this article is pretty old!). I’d entered a writing contest with Palmdale Gold and when I lost, I asked if they would take the time to let me know why. I got this “tough love” diatribe on how I didn’t know a thing about writing, should go to school and learn first, and throw the whole premise of my book away. That publisher subsequently went out of business.
I’m here to tell you, if you love writing, if you HAVE to write, don’t let something like that get you down.
Funny, after I published this, I remembered some rejections I’d forgot about and my statement about only receiving that type of harsh criticism once was not true. And it has happened since then also. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, but it will, so get used to it. And, remember that even when you get through all of that and your book is sitting on a shelf or is out there in the e-world, someone is going to hate it. Don’t take it personally, even if they do.
Now that I’ve beat this dead horse, my next post will be something about actual writing!