When You Get Kicked in The Gut What Do You Do?

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How do you hold up under criticism?

Do you retreat? Retaliate? Get angry? Do you lose your breath?

No one likes to be criticized. Yet as you rise to the top of your AUTHOR LADDER, you will be watched with magnifying glasses. Readers will scrutinize your work closer. They will criticize your title, your characters, your plot line, but they will also criticize you more.

Think about a race. The leaders out front are watched, but those who stagger behind, who don’t threaten to win are ignored.

Leadership is a responsibility because you have to be the best example you can be–not just with the words you write, but in the way you handle yourself in all you do.

How will you handle criticism when it comes your way? Here are a few things to consider based on John Maxwell’s book, Leadership Gold.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 7.36.34 PM1. Know yourself. This is a reality issue. The more you know yourself the easier it will be to successfully handle the criticism. First ask yourself: Is the person criticizing you or your writing style? The two are separate. If the person is jabbing at your writing style then you know not to take it personally. But if there is something they are pointing out about your writing that you can improve, stop and listen. Improving our craft should be an on-going task. But if they’re taking a stab at your character then listen. Are they right?

Sometimes those things we need to hear the most are the most difficult to hear. For instance, I’m impatient and I have to work at listening when others are talking because too often I’m thinking about what I’ll say next instead of engaging with my friend. My son called me out on this once, and I was glad he did. I needed to hear it.

The next question you should ask yourself is: What am I going to do about it?

2. Change yourself. This is a responsibility issue. When my son told me I didn’t listen to him I knew I needed to change. It was my responsibility to do something about it because my relationship with him mattered to me.

There are three things you should consider before listening to criticism:

a.) Who is criticizing? The source often matters. If an important editor gives you constructive criticism you might listen closer than you would if an unpublished friend did.

b.) How was the criticism given? Was the person being judgmental or acting out of kindness?

c.) Why was it given? Was the person lashing out to hurt you or did they really care? Sometimes people like to criticize because their ego gets a charge.

3. Maintain the right attitude. Stay open-minded about the criticism. People can change, and our writing can grow, but only if we stay positive. Don’t be defensive. Look for the grain of truth. Make necessary changes.

4. Accept yourself. This is a maturity issue. “The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.” Leo Buscaglia.

If someone is criticizing your writing voice, the way you tell the story, don’t compromise on who you are, but if your story needs more narrative or unforced dialogue–those are things you can accept.

You can grow and change, but know yourself and accept who you are. “Real confidence comes from knowing and accepting yourself–your strengths and limitations–in contrast to depending on others to affirm you.” Judith Bardwick.

5. Forget yourself. This is a security issue. Don’t focus on yourself. Focus on others instead. By doing this you will be able to face criticism. Being secure in who you are and focusing on others will allow you to take the high road.

Learn to live by this: Perry Noble says, “By your own soul learn to live. And if men thwart you, take no heed. If men hate you, have no care. Sing your song, dream your dream, hope your hope and pray your prayers.”

ACTION: The next time you witness someone criticizing another person, observe the one being criticized. Intentionally notice how she reacts. Is the critic treated graciously? Does her ego get in the way? Is she open to improvement?

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  1. I’ve watched multi-published author friends experience that. They’ve learned to accept the really negative with a grain of salt. If there’s any kernel of truth, glean that and go on it. If not, learn instead from your writing professional friends who are more reliable in feedback. One Amazon reader’s response to my e-book, Little Chief and Ogopogo, was 1 out of 5 because he thought it incredulous that a whole native American tribe could become Christian. I don’t like what that when averaged in to my Amazon rating, but friends agree it reflects more of the critic than it does my writing. I’ll be grateful when additional more objective Amazon comments help balance the effects of his.

    • Hi Delores – Yes, reviews sting sometimes. You will get more favorable reviews in time. It’s easier for people to read a children’s book and write a review because they’re shorter. You might want to try to get reviews from Goodreads readers. Ask them to read an ebook and leave a review. Send them a review copy. Look for books that are similar to yours and search for those readers who liked those books and ask them to read yours. Amazon might need reviews to be from validated readers though–which is wrong. Kelly has sold thousands of books out of her garage that she bought, (Fractured Not Broken) but some of the reviewers (who bought the book) weren’t allowed to leave a review because they couldn’t validate that they bought an Amazon copy. Sheesh. Watching for reviews can be addicting! A total time-suck. I hope you’re still writing. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Pamela says:

      Delores, I just bought your book so I could review it from the perspective that it’s certainly possible for a whole tribe could become Christian. So there! to the guy who thought it incredulous.

      • Yay Pamela! Wow, that’s awesome. I know Delores will love that. I’ll drop her a little note to make sure she sees your message here.

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