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  • Paul Davidson

Criticism for Writers

Writers are characteristically not so good with criticism.

Sure, they’ll listen to your notes on their novel or their short story or their screenplay or their blog entry and they’ll appear to be so appreciative of your criticism and then you’ll go away and they’ll sit and stew for hours about the nerve that you have to be so open with your hatred.

Seriously, writers do this.

I like to think I’m pretty good with criticism. I always say to people from whom I want to get thoughts from, that if all they do is come back after reading something of mine and tell me it was great — that’s doing me a disservice. In fact, I’d rather have someone tell me (even if they love it overall) all the nitpicky little things that didn’t work for them. Telling me you loved my writing when I’ve asked for notes will result in, yes you guessed it, me leaving that piece of writing alone. Cause you loved it. See?

But oh, it’s a double-edged sword, that criticism. Tell me the little nitpicky things you didn’t like, such as the punctuation on page twelve, or someone’s speech being too preachy or your boredom in the last three pages and I will thank you for your commentary, your overall positive notes and your nitpicky little criticisms and I will write you a nasty e-mail later that night, which I will (of course) never send.

I’m over-doing it here, of course.

It’s funny to me how writers can finish a draft of something and feel so good and so positive about it, only to be met with minor criticisms on it, and then they get derailed. Seriously, the minor criticism seems so huge to them, that they just have to go away and not think about it for awhile. Long enough to get back their enthusiasm for the project.

Someone once said, “A piece of writing is never finished. It’s abandoned.”

If, as writers, we have the attitude that a piece of writing can always get better and always improve based on notes and criticisms and thoughts — then above and beyond the fact that we may not want to be working on this one project for our entire lifetime, at least we can admit to ourselves that it can always get better.

Didn’t Howard Jones sing a song with that title?

It’s just a matter of how good you want something to be, versus how long you want to spend on it. I know that the things I’ve spent the longest amounts of time on, are always the best. And I guess that, when it comes down to it, you have to decide ahead of time if what you’re writing has a purpose, or if the act of writing is why you do it.

Then, criticism may not have the lasting effects that it has on others.

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