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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

Responding To Constructive Critiques (And Not-So-Constructive Critiques)

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Last week, I talked about the importance of joining a writing community and critiquing other people's work. Consider that the front cover; this week, I'm going to talk about the back cover—responding to critiques of your work.

You need strangers that write to critique your work. When you first begin writing, you will probably ask your friends and family to look over your work. That's a good way to begin building confidence, but you can't stop there.

You must send your work to strangers, and then you have to listen to what they say. Both of these steps can be painful; both are necessary.

So, what's the best way to respond to a constructive critique?

1. Ignore Your First Reaction—Which Will Probably Be Defensiveness

When someone questions your writing, or outright says they don't like something, your automatic response is going to be to want to defend yourself and your work.

This is natural. Sharing your writing is a vulnerable action.

But remember: the critique is not about you; it is about helping your writing.

2. Engage In Active Listening

Don't explain; don't argue; don't talk back. Listen to the feedback. Absorb it. Accept it. If you find yourself waiting for your turn to speak, stop yourself and listen.

This will help you adopt a mindset geared toward growth. Receiving feedback is an opportunity to improve.

3. Do Not Argue

Even if you don't think you're arguing. Your job here is not to convince the critter that they're "wrong," or they didn't understand your story/poem/etc.

This holds true, even when the critique is not constructive. It can be tempting to argue and explain why the critter is wrong, but it's not helpful.

4. Do Ask Clarifying Questions

You want to make sure you understand the critique, and sometimes that means asking follow up questions. Don't be hostile!

5. Pay Attention To Repeated Comments

If multiple people are getting hung up on the same parts, that may indicate a problem.

6. Say Thank You

Seriously, thank the critter. They took time out of their day to help you.

7. Ask Yourself What You Can Take Away

If a critique, or multiple crits, missed something in your writing, ask yourself why that may be—is there something that can be changed to make sure its intended point is coming across?

8. Sleep On It

Before you determine which feedback is helpful in achieving your writing goals, take some time to simply sit with the feedback. Then read it again.

You may find that after waiting a day or so, you can see the critter's point more clearly. You may also decide not to listen to the feedback, but better understand your reasoning.

Final Thoughts

Remember—everyone who is critiquing you, has been critiqued themselves. They have all felt the way you feel. Criticism can be painful, but it is necessary to get you where you want to go.

Tempting, but don't be like this.

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