If there is one crime I would totally support every writer’s right to commit, it would be this: cold-blooded, premeditated murder of the destructive critic. You know who I mean: that whiny-voiced, wheedling guy inside (or outside) with greasy hair and a “reject” button at his fingertips.
Criticism is essential, and it’s the only way a writer can improve. It can be that inner voice that tells you that the sentence or paragraph or scene you just wrote is clumsy. Or it can be a well-meaning friend or mentor or teacher or reader who points out that your writing lacks life.
Sometimes there’s nothing worse than praise for a writer. How many times has the polite, “Oh, it’s nice,” or “Great writing!” frustrated you as a writer? What was nice about it? Why was the writing great? How can it be better?
But the ultimate in writing hell is wishy-washy, general negative criticism. “I don’t know, you can do better than this,” or “I didn’t really feel the writing,” or quite simply, “This sucks.” The worse is usually an awkward silence, which makes you prey to all the my-writing-sucks demons who can come up with a million and three terrible possibilities of what that silence meant.
Whether you hear this kind of criticism from well-meaning friends/mentors/teachers/readers, or from your inner voice, learn to recognize it for what it is: the whiny-voiced, wheedling guy with greasy hair who deserves to die. You can usually do this by identifying the accompanying symptoms:
- a sudden hatred of your writing
- a sense of overwhelming despair
- deep seated fear that you “will never make it”
- extreme reluctance to write
- recurring wish to stop now before you get laughed out of the writing world and give up
If you can’t get yourself to commit murder and cringe at the thought of blood, then learn to take that advice…
…and throw it out the window. Ignore everyone and just write.
The best lesson a writer can learn is how to block, throw out, kill, or otherwise destroy any of this kind of destructive criticism.
The second best lesson a writer can learn is how to recognize and deal with that elusive creature: constructive criticism. But that’s another topic for another day.