There comes a time in every writer’s career, regardless of publishing route, when they deal with the inevitable consequences of putting their work out there . . . no, I’m not talking about rejection . . . let’s pretend we’ve moved past that point already. I’m talking about criticism.
Criticism comes in many forms; it can either be constructive or destructive in its intent. Often times, writers confuse constructive criticism as insult and don’t take it for what it’s worth. In order to grow as a writer, though, you have to be open to feedback, both positive and negative. To block out negative feedback is to risk stunting your own growth. As a former educator and an amateur editor, this is one of my biggest peeves. It frustrating to spend hours of my time reading and reviewing someone’s work in order to provide meaningful critique only for the writer to instantly reject the negative feedback. Granted, most of my writers are teenagers, and being defensive is part of their charm most days, but when I see this kind of response from authors online, it concerns me.
For those of you who have shopped on Amazon.com for a book, you are probably familiar with the customer reviews and ratings found at the bottom of the screen. Quality is ranked from 1-5 stars which coincides with the customer review. Shoppers interested in purchasing this book might find customer feedback helpful in the decision making progress, and can select customer reviews by ranking if they choose. Often times, I skip the 1-star and 5-star reviews and focus on the 3-4 star reviews. These, I find to be the most honest and balanced. The rave reviews were usually written by the author’s friends and the 1-stars were usually left by shoppers who didn’t research the product prior to purchase. Personally, I find customer reviews to be helpful. In return, when I purchase a book or ebook from Amazon.com, I review it . . . and my reviews are always honest (for better or worse).
Whether it’s Amazon.com or Goodreads, the reviews and ratings are not always favorable, and that goes for well-known and lesser-known authors alike. What bothers me, though, is seeing authors responses to the negative feedback. Instead of just taking the bad review with a grain of salt, some of these authors are actually fighting back, arguing in defense of their novel. Others have gone so far as to post video responses defending their books and challenging the criticism. In my personal opinion, this just makes the author look defensive and sensitive, unprofessional even. Bad reviews happen, and not all criticism is constructive. Sometimes a reader just doesn’t like your book, and instead of leaving a thoughtful review, they slam your book like a celebrity . . . speaking of celebrities . . .
Writers could take a lesson from celebrities when it comes to dealing with criticism. Miley Cyrus, for one, handles criticism well . . . granted she invokes most of it. Her scandalous performances, outrageous style, iconic tongue, and misbehaviors are constantly under attack and satirized by the media. Following her spat with Sinead O’Connor and the VMAs, Miley offered a candid interview with “Today” host Matt Lauer concerning the controversy surrounding these incidences. In the interview, she offers no apology for offending anyone, nor does she brag about it. She just states that the intent was to get people talking about it . . . and months later, we are still talking about it. At no point during the interview does Miley react defensively or get worked up about the negative feedback; she just lets it roll off. She’s able to prove to audiences how confident she is in her “art” and even wins over some of the haters (including myself) who doubted her intent. If nothing else, she’s able to go on to make the next raunchy video with her head held high.
When responding to criticism, I think we have a lot to learn from Miley. If she can take it with even an ounce of grace, so can we.