Criticism. What writer wants it? What writer enjoys it? Answer: Any writer who wishes to improve.
No doubt, criticism can hurt. But here are some ideas to effectively deal with it.
1. How do you feel about writing?
During the writing process, you have to believe that what you’re creating is going to be appreciated by some audience. Your purpose or passion in this writing is to share information or tell a story—and do it well.
However, once you’ve done the creative part, you have to let go of this frame of reference. What you have in front of you is just a collection of words. You can’t, at this point, be in love with them. So, your role changes. It’s no longer to create, but to make sure that your story flows or that facts are presented clearly. It’s time to rearrange, change, or delete anything that detracts from the effectiveness of your work. If you’ve ever done any shrub pruning, you’re trimming or cutting it to improve its looks, but also, sometimes, to make it stronger.
2. How should you deal with editing?
One simple way, of course, it to accept an editor’s suggestions, or not. The problem with this thought process is that it means judging your writing against someone else’s opinion. This may create a relationship conflict, or it may even cause you to think about who knows more about the subject of your work—you or an editor. Going back to item 1, are you too in love with your words to see them changed by someone else? This often causes writers to resist following an editor’s comments or suggestions.
However, there’s another solution that’s between “accept” or “reject”—and that’s to step back and think about what the editor’s suggestions might reveal about how your writing could be improved. Remember, in most cases, as the author, you’re still in charge. You get the final say on how to implement the suggestions. Keep in mind that your goal is communicate the message defined by your initial vision, not to have a love affair with some printed words.
So, when your editor asks you to clarify a chunk of text, think about how many “dust bunnies” need to be removed so that your readers can see the polished floor.
3. An editor’ purpose is to expose what you can’t see, not to tell you what to do
You’re the writer, and you have the initial vision. But, as an “outsider”, an editor can often spot something in your writing that you either didn’t realize was there or see a point that you were trying to make but didn’t do effectively. This is partly what makes editors invaluable.
An editor will usually not have the same feeling for the story or topic as you do. But, the outside insight an editor provides can be very beneficial for strengthening your initial vision, the structure of your work, and how to make the presentation crisper and clearer.
Very few people like criticism. But it’s a lot easier to take if you view it as a learning opportunity. With a clear initial vision, and the ability to see your writing as words used to convey your message, you can easily determine which editorial suggestions will make your writing more effective. Outside insight can be a winning process.
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