If you’ve been burned by a less than enlightened writing critique, I know it can be crushing and hard to get past. You might even feel like packing it in.
An instructor’s demoralizing idea of feedback a student recently shared with me got me thinking about how many writers out there feel shut down after an unnecessarily harsh writing critique.
As a writer, I feel humbled to be among equals. And as a teacher with a genuine desire to help a fellow writer, I’d like to share an approach to receiving feedback while staying centered in your power, so you know when to ignore a critique.
Listen in as I talk about dealing with writing critiques that aren’t meant to help you grow.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What a less than enlightened writing critique looks like.
- Why some writers are unnecessarily harsh critics…
- An approach to receiving feedback while staying centered in your power.
- When to ignore a writing critique.
- What to do if you’ve been getting unhelpful feedback from a writing instructor or your peers.
Resources Featured In This Episode For Writers:
- Check out this free training for memoir writers.
- Apply to the Spark your Story Intensive.
- Follow me on Instagram!
- Email me!
- Sign up for my email list!
- Learn how to write about trauma, grief, and loss.
Your key takeaways from ‘4 Red Flags That Tell You When A Writing Critique Is Worth Ignoring?’
Today I want to talk about dealing with writing critiques that aren’t meant to help you grow. Recently a writer described how her instructor would slash one word across her papers with red ink as feedback.
My student’s story about her instructor’s idea of feedback in a professional writing program got me thinking about how many writers out there feel shut down after sharing their work.
As a writer, I feel humbled to be among equals. As a teacher, I can’t imagine treating another writer’s work with anything but compassion and a genuine desire to help a fellow writer – especially when it’s a personal narrative.
If you’ve been shut down by a less than enlightened critique of your work, I know it can be crushing and hard to get past. You might even feel like packing it in if you’ve really felt burned by a harsh critique.
The first thing I’d say to you is that it’s quite possible your work was attacked because the other person felt competitive and possibly threatened by it. When someone is vicious, it says everything about them, and nothing about you, the quality of your work, or your potential.
The second thing I’d like to share is an approach to receiving feedback while staying centered in your power so you know when to ignore a critique.
Here are 4 red flags telling you when to ignore a writing critique:
1. It doesn’t feel good. You can tell when someone genuinely cares about you and your work. If what you are getting is unsubstantial – a dismissive word or “I don’t know why but I just don’t like this” – don’t listen.
2. It isn’t based on craft. If you’re sharing a personal essay and your reader is giving feedback on the events of your life, then it isn’t based on craft. If they are just giving an opinion and aren’t able to tell you WHY something isn’t working, throw it out.
3. They clearly don’t understand your intention – but they don’t ask questions for clarification or context. As a result, their comments are completely off base. Once you see the problem here, you really can’t take their words to heart.
4. They aren’t able to tell you what IS working and WHY. They aren’t telling you what you’re doing right and what they’d love to see more of. Getting this kind of feedback is the BEST way another reader can help you grow. What is needed in the drafting process is NOT critique. It’s showing writers what they can’t see in their own work: what is actually working.
If you’ve been getting unhelpful feedback from a writing instructor or your peers, it’s time to do two things:
1. Tell your instructor or feedback partner what would be helpful to you. Ask them to base their feedback on craft and to be specific. If they don’t have an understanding of craft techniques to center a discussion of another writer’s work, they aren’t qualified to give you useful feedback.
2. Don’t give up. Seek out a feedback partner who CAN offer helpful feedback delivered with some sensitivity for what you’re trying to do. I don’t believe feedback EVER has to be negative or harsh – that what is most helpful is another reader NOTICING what is developing in a piece. To tell you: “I’m enjoying the way you’ve described this cedar tree in such precise detail, I can picture it clearly.” That kind of thing.
Your key takeaway: Is it still going to sting when someone says something unenlightened about your work? Yes, but by remembering when to ignore feedback, you’ll be able to re-focus and get back to your writing sooner.
If you’re a creative nonfiction writer looking for 1:1 feedback on your work from a caring and experienced mentor, enrollment for the Spark Your Story Intensive opens twice a year.