[Create 101] ⚡ How to Handle Criticism
We’ve all received feedback at some point in our lives. I remember once feeling my heart sink seeing lines upon lines of red ink marring my work, and for another piece, having to quell butterflies in my stomach from the copious notes of praise scribbled in the margins.
No matter the overall verdict of our audience, we need criticism to become better at our craft. We as creators cannot see everything; there will always be a new perspective someone else can elucidate, showing us ever more room to grow. Sometimes, criticism can be a tough pill to swallow. So how do we take it most effectively?
🤔 First, it’s important to distinguish actionable criticism from other forms of feedback we receive.
I will illustrate what actionable criticism is not through example sentences below:
Graphic by Ryun, CC Designer
The art of receiving criticism is not about having a thick skin, it’s about knowing what and what not to take into consideration. The ideal isn’t a “nobody’s words can get me down!” mentality, but a mindset of “is this relevant to my growth as a creative?” You aren’t seeking to destroy, but to grow.
💡 So what do you do about the cream of the crop, actionable criticism?
One answer might surprise you: You can ignore it, too.
One of my creative writing professors at Cornell stressed this. During workshops, we would go around sharing our criticism of that day’s piece, and a lot of the time, there would be conflicting opinions on what the writer should do to improve. One student would suggest more elaboration on a specific sentence; another would suggest cutting it out entirely. One student would praise a section of dialogue; another would find it particularly difficult to follow, suggesting a rework. In these sorts of situations, it’s understandable to accept that some of your audience is going to conflict over that part anyway, and proceed with what you originally had.
Another option is to consider implementing what the constructive criticism suggests. Even if opinions vary, if the majority of your audience sides with one suggestion or it appeals to you, look into incorporating it. It might feel against the grain, but growth as a creative is going to be uncomfortable sometimes, and it doesn’t hurt to try something new.
When in doubt, inquire further. Ask for more perspectives. It’s considerably more helpful to have more feedback from a wider audience so you can notice trends and patterns in their criticism.
Now that you’ve distilled your actionable criticism, what’s the last thing you need to do? How do you take that first step toward being a better creative?
Graphic by Renee, CC Designer
Invest in research. Maybe the critics used a term you’re unfamiliar with, or you’re not sure how to develop a certain aspect of your work in the way they suggested. Don’t be reluctant to go back to square one, absorbing, learning, and growing. Not only will you emerge with an improved version of your work, but you’ll also have a stronger foundation upon which to build... with even more criticism, of course.
Ignore, implement, inquire, and/or invest — four ways of taking criticism. Choose, mix, and match according to the situation, and you’ll be well on your way to refining your craft.
Euna is a senior majoring in English and Music in Arts & Sciences. She enjoys storytelling through all different mediums, from cinema to blogs to song to fiction.
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