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Writers can Grow to be Comfortable with Criticism

On my first newspaper assignment as a critic, I was well prepared to dish it out. I was less prepared to take it. Imagine my surprise when my witty, well-crafted critique drew a smattering of letters filled with name-calling and nasty words. It stung. Could the critic handle criticism? I discovered that with some emotional discipline and introspection, I could not only handle criticism, I could grow from it. Here's how.

Allow yourself to feel hurt--briefly. It's natural to be shocked and hurt by criticism. Recognize it, feel it but don't allow yourself to wallow in it. Knowing you have a technique for dealing with criticism allows you to put the breaks on hurt feelings as you move on to the next step.

Consider the source. All critics can be divided into three categories. The critic can be a crank, someone that lives in pain and feels the need to spread it around. The critic can be a self-appointed expert. Such people feel they have a duty to point out other people's shortcomings. Or the critic can be a mentor, someone whose thoughtful, objective opinion can help you improve your performance.

Deal with it. If your critic is a crank, recognize that such people attack anyone or anything that draws their attention. Say a prayer for them as you put their remarks through your mental paper shredder. If your critic is a self-appointed expert, consider their motivation. Does it seem they honestly want to help you improve? Or is their purpose to disparage you so they can feel superior? In either case, their criticism may hold a grain of truth. Be open to looking for it. But if you sense your critic needs to drag you down so they can lift themselves up, raise your emotional barriers. Consider any aspect of their criticism that seems valid, but don't allow them to shake your sense of self-worth. Hopefully, your critic is the third type, a mentor, someone whose opinion you can respect. Their criticism is well thought-out and deserves your serious attention. Consider what they say and see if it offers you an opportunity to improve an actual flaw.

Move on. Take what valid points you can from your critic. Decide whether or not you want to use the criticism as an opportunity for self-improvement, then move on. If you find yourself dwelling on criticism, allowing it to drain your energy and confidence, shut the door on it. Visualize your critic, or their letter, framed in a doorway. Imagine yourself shutting the door with a satisfying slam, hearing the click of the lock and walking away. See the door getting smaller and smaller until it disappears in the past. This signals your self on many different levels that you're closing the door on the event and moving on.

Writers of any kind will always be met with criticism. You don't have to like it, but you can refuse to be wounded by it. Learning to handle criticism in a calm and self-confident spirit will help you grow as a writer and as a person.

BONNIE BOOTS ( an award-winning writer and designer who says all writers should show off their talent by wearing their Write Side Out! Her wise and witty product line of gear that shows the world you're a writer is at

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