Being open to criticism

It isn’t always easy to be open to criticism, in fact it’s something I’ve learned to do over the years.  When I first started showing my writing to other people, I felt vulnerable and exposed.  Praise bolstered my confidence but criticism could really upset me and make me feel defeated, as if it wasn’t worth carrying on.  Over the years, I’ve developed a thicker skin and learned whose judgement I trust and whose I don’t.  I’ve become a better critic of my own work, too.  In writing workshops, when you show your work to others, it’s helpful to keep an open mind, to listen to everyone’s comments but to keep hold of the sense of what you’re trying to say.  No-one is surer of that than you. When giving feedback to others, I try to look for what’s working well before offering any criticism.  I’m conscious of a critic’s responsibility.  Criticism can undermine and damage a writer, whatever their age or experience.  But when I’ve been really open to criticism and taken on board what someone’s said, even if it felt counter intuitive at first, I’ve been able to transform pieces of work into something completely different, something that I never imagined I’d write.

6 thoughts on “Being open to criticism

  1. MoiraG says:

    On the other side of the coin, I like to use – and receive – the ‘feedback sandwich’ whether teaching or responding in a workshop: 1. Praise/positive remarks on an aspect of the work 2. suggestions for development 3. Final remarks giving an overall positive view. And of course the tone of remarks is also important, given in a generous spirit.
    All of us need to keep reminding ourselves of our commitment to give this kind of support.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anthony Wilson says:

    Hi Josephine. You have really hit on a nerve with this one. I do not like criticism at all. As you say, when it comes from people who you trust and have your best interests at heart, it is ok. I’d like to say I have developed a thicker skin over the years but I don’t think I have. I sometimes find myself recalling the brutal ad hominem remarks made about my first book in a magazine I won’t mention. (I have a lingering feeling it was written under a pseudonym as I have never seen the writer’s name appear since.) And I know I am not blameless myself. I wrote some appalling reviews in the early nineties which I bitterly regret writing. I thought I was being so clever and funny and I really got it wrong. I think that is why I have spent the last ten years or so on my blog trying to look at things and basically praise as much as I can. Let’s look for the good, while we can and while we have time. Thank you so much again Josephine for your blogging and writing. With best wishes as ever, Anthony

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josephine Corcoran says:

      I love your comment and the generosity of spirit it comes from. Like you, I have regrets.
      In particular, I remember criticising someone’s poem in a workshop and never seeing that person again. How wrong of me, I should’ve known better. I do take criticism with a pinch of salt now, and rejection. It doesn’t bother me as it used to although I do love receiving praise. I am slightly worried that my not caring is a sign of me giving up – there might be some truth in this! Thanks for your kind comments, as always, and for your blogs, Anthony. I’m not sure if blogging has become a distraction/replacement activity for me but perhaps that is not something I need to worry about today. Love, Josephine x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anthony Wilson says:

    Hi Josephine. You have really hit on a nerve with this one for me. If I know and trust who the criticism is coming from, and that they are on my side and have my best interests at heart, then I can take it. As you know, those people are hard to find. I still have a lingering pain over a brutal and ad hominem review about my first book in a magazine I won’t name. (I suspect the person who wrote it used a pseudonym because I have never seen their name appear since…) And yet I know I am not blameless myself. In the nineties I wrote some appalling reviews of my own, which I bitterly regret. I thought I was being so clever and funny and did not stop to think about that there was a person on the receiving end of my words. I am sure this is why I have spent the last 9 years or so trying to use my blog as a vehicle of praise and encouragement. Let’s speak words of encouragement to each other, while we can, while we still have time. Thank you again for your blogging and writing and honesty Josephine and please don’t stop. With very best wishes as ever, Anthony

    Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Wilson says:

        Hi Josephine, Thank you so much for responding. I’m sorry to have uploaded the same(ish) comment twice. I couldn’t see it after I commented first time and forgot it needed moderating. I should have known better ! 🤦🏻 Thank you so much for keeping on. Much needed in this weird space we are living in. As ever, Anthony x

        Liked by 1 person

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