Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lesson Learned: How to React to Criticism of Your Writing

So here are excerpts from the email exchange between my daughter and me after yesterday's post:
  • Upstart Daughter: Hi Dad. Just read your most recent posts! After reading today's post I am wondering, who is Elizabeth Strout? Where does she teach? What kind of workshop did you take and what did you learn from her? What's the book about?
  • Know-It-All Father: It's a bloody blog, not a freakin' feature article!!!! If you want answers to those questions, Google her, buy the book, and figure it out yourself. Sincerely yours, The Cranky Blogger
  • Upstart Daughter: Dear Cranky: Please consider writing your next post on how to, after a billion years as a writer, develop the ability to absorb politely worded observations regarding your work.
When you're right, you're right. In recognition of my daughter's, er... rightness... I will now offer a five-step approach to reacting to criticism of one's writing.
  1. Read or listen carefully. Do not speak, except to say, "Interesting. What else?"
  2. Be open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the person offering the critique has your best interests at heart. Similarly, assume that the person, as a reader, has the right to express his or her opinions on what they like, or don't like, about a particular piece of writing.
  3. Thank the person for taking time to not only read your writing, but also to offer comments and suggestions.
  4. Revise, if appropriate.
  5. Be grateful that there are people out there who care enough about writing--and you--to offer their observations (politely worded or not).

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