Criticism and rejection are part of life, but perhaps particularly part of a writer’s life.
In the video below, I chat with Mark McGuinness about how the importance of the right types of criticism, as well as how we can build resilience as writers in order to deal with the more difficult side of the inevitable. There’s also a downloadable audio and text overview below.
Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach, blogger, speaker and entrepreneur. His latest book is called ‘Resilience. Facing down rejection and criticism on the road to success.”
- Mark was a psychotherapist and then moved into coaching with creative professionals. Over the years, the same issues have come up time and time again, and rejection and criticism are two of the major themes.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity
- It’s not a quality that you have or don’t have, it is an ability that you can build and improve on over time. It is hard to succeed as a creative without facing these issues.
- The importance of criticism for writers, from editors and beta readers, which helps us improve your work. The first time, it hurts but it gets easier with each book. If you have great criticism early, you will lessen your chances of rejection later. The criticism has to be high quality though, and from the right people.
- What is rejection in the indie world? In the traditional publishing world, it was agents and publishers rejecting you, but as a self-published author, you will experience rejection and criticism via the customer reviews, one star Amazon reviews, the social media world, blogs, or just not selling anything which is a kind of rejection in itself.
- Fear of judgement is a common fear. Creative people identify with the work we do, so we feel rejection of the work is rejection of us as people. Flaubert ‘we serve up a portion of our gut and the critics get the knives out’. Depending on the content, you may have also bared your soul, and it does reveal something about you. It has to hurt a bit, otherwise you don’t really care about the work. Often, the fear of the thing itself is worse than the actual reality.
On building resilience
- How to deal with the criticism. Don’t turn it over and over in your mind. Don’t focus on it or give it more energy. Try using mindfulness as a technique. Be aware of what you are feeling, observe your thinking, watch your mind in action. Focus on the moment and not the feelings and thoughts that are escalating in your brain. Stop the mental tapes running. Getting to know yourself and being mindful is probably the most important way to start, as you can catch yourself before you spiral into despair!
- A community is so important for building resilience as it is supportive and there’s a sense of exploring together. The writer’s community here on the blog and also on twitter etc is so valuable. Don’t go it alone. Join a group of people who are going through the same issues. I don’t think I could have written even one novel without the encouragement of the community. [I also recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors, which has a fantastic Facebook group where we share issues and learnings.]
- Comparing ourselves to others is totally normal but it needs to be framed properly. It can be motivating and encouraging or it can be disheartening. A regular writing practice means you can bounce back from the daily ups and downs, because you are aware of how it all feels.
- On taking risks as a writer. The fear of judgement will hold us back but we have to risk something in order to write the work. Consider what you need to censor and what you can let out into the world. You’re never going to please everyone, so be aware that if you put your work into the world, there will be some criticism.
On taking criticism and critique groups
- How do you know when criticism is valid or not? There are some times when you need to take the comments as valid and other times when you need to ignore it. A good critic knows what they are talking about but also knows the limits of what they talk about. They give examples and they judge it by the right criteria. A good critic is also respectful. A bad critic doesn’t have self-awareness around judgment, they don’t give examples and they judge it by incorrect criteria. So be careful whose opinion you listen to.