Peggy Bechko: The Writer’s Fear of Criticism

writersfearby Peggy Bechko

Are you a writer with a fear you keep hidden from the world, a phobia you’d prefer others didn’t know about?

Do you fear criticism?

From friends who read your work, from the world at large, even from yourself? Does it make your stomach clench even to think about what someone might say about your writing? Always expect the negative?

Well, you’re aren’t alone.

Many writers suffer from this plague. And it can be debilitating, frustrating, embarrassing even.

But there is good news. This fear has a good side. You can put it to use to make yourself polish until the story really shines, be it novel, script, article or any other writing. You’ll be amazed at how much better a piece becomes when you, as the writer, are spurred by the nagging rider, criticism.

The down side is this fear can also paralyze you while you’re writing so that you cross out every other word, read and re-read, sweat over every comma and fear the worst about the words you’ve chosen. All that and you’re only on the first draft.

When you’ve tied into that idea, that magic moment when you know you have a story, a “that’s it” moment, tell your inner critic, not so subtly, to shut the hell up. Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done. Focus on your story and get it down on paper or up on that blank screen. Generally I suggest writing fast, get it out, fix it later.

As a writer you have to work at developing a thick skin. The fact of the matter is, even after you’ve completed a project, when you’ve polished and worked with it until it shines and you’ve pleased yourself with the result, you aren’t going to please everyone. It’s a basic fact. No escaping it.

No matter what the quality of your work someone will criticize, probably a number of someones. And some of the comments, observations and complaints may actually hold water. We make mistakes, that’s life. Other criticisms might be mistakes, be just plain wrong, or obviously made by someone who didn’t even read it and likes to have an opinion. Sorry, that’s life too. It can be hurtful. Just don’t engage in verbal jousting.

Believe it or not you’re also going to get some praise with that criticism.

So look, here’s the thing. Greet both criticism and praise as helpful and educational. Use them as tools to spur yourself into creating your best.

Don’t allow that beast, fear of criticism, stop you in your tracks and prevent you from creating your best. Put it out there and assume your work will be met with praise and glory.

If it isn’t, if that much feared criticism arrives, read it, listen to it, use from it what you can and dispose of the rest. Let your skin grow thicker and your mind more nimble. As a writer you’ll never avoid criticism altogether; heck as a person you’ll never avoid criticism altogether.

It’s how you handle it, turn it to your advantage that counts.