Nobody likes a critic. And for many writers, that sentiment is the source of a lot of self-loathing. Your very own inner critic is always with you, looking over your shoulder, making little remarks along the way, pointing out all your flaws. Is that REALLY how you want to say that? Where is this story going, anyway? You're not going to SHOW this to anyone, are you?
Aren't you glad you have an inner critic?
It could be worse. You could not have one. Think of the opening episodes of any talent-related reality show. How many poor souls are convinced they are exceptionally gifted singers or dancers or cat jugglers, only to be informed in the cruelest way that they're not? Some friendly advice: try to schedule your reality checks before you're on national television. So maybe an inner critic isn't all bad.
But that's not to say we shouldn't keep our critics on a short leash. Here are a few of my own thoughts
Treat Yourself Like a Stranger.
|Okay, but I know how to fix it.|
I'll need a shotgun and a shovel...
Why do we seem to think we can be so much harder on ourselves than on others? To whom in your critique group would you say, "This is rubbish! Rubbish! You're a failure as a writer! You're not fit to sign greeting cards! Fail, Fail, FAIL!!!" And yet, when critiquing ourselves, we feel that unbridled savagery is somehow appropriate.
We must remember that tearing ourselves down is not a mark of humility. It really means we've lost objectivity. That's not the way to be a better writer. Instead, we should try to give ourselves the same advice we'd give to our peers. And with only as much name-calling too.
It's Okay to Be Your Own Fan.
Somehow, there sprouted an unwritten social rule that if you like your own work, you're a conceited artist-type. Sure, nobody likes people who constantly toot their own horns. But you wouldn't spend all those hours writing and rewriting a story you didn't like. Is it perfect? Probably not. Does it need a lot more work? Likely. Can you like it anyway? Of course! Take some time to revel in the good bits. It will help you get over the bumps later on.
|Don't underestimate the |
importance of quality control.
Also, don't underestimate
neon-skinned guys with lots of
words in their heads!
There's a lot of content out there. If you want to attract readers, you're going to have to put your best work forward. That can't happen without a little help from your inner critic. And some exterior critics are a good idea too. Feedback is a part of writing, so we may as well get used to taking some criticism. But the key is accuracy. Only accurate analysis will help you to improve your work. Too much negativity, and you'll lose heart. Rose-colored glasses will blind you to points that need improvement. Like Goldilocks, we want our inner critic to be just right.
What Makes Criticism Work?
I once worked under a manager who could tell me anything. She could list out my faults without apology, and it never bothered me. As a result, I became better at what I did. What was her secret? Sincerity. I always had an innate sense that she had my professional growth in mind, and she also had the expertise to give me accurate feedback. She was never over-harsh nor over-gentle. We should treat ourselves with that same courtesy if we wish to grow in our writing. Earnestly desire to be a better writer, and let your self-analysis come from that place.
|Okay. I admit.|
This graphic has no relevance.
I just wanted to upload some
chilies arranged in a star.
What of it?
Do you constantly scrutinize your own writing? I do. I can't glance at my own work without seeing something that needs to be tweaked (or completely overhauled). Enough so that I don't read my own writing unless I have time to edit it. Does that make me my own "worst" critic? I think that depends on whether my revisions improve what I've written. Usually, they do. I like the changes, and that makes me feel good. If opening yourself up to your own honest opinion has that effect, maybe that's not so bad. Why not be your own "best" critic?
For more resources on taming your inner critic, try:
The Art of Constructive Self-Criticism
How To Critique Your Own Work - And Get It Right
-Written for artists of visual formats, but the principles are applicable to writers as well.
Dealing with Self-Doubt: Tips from 7 Popular Authors
-And just in case you think highly successful authors don't suffer from the same thing...