Guest Post: Handling Criticism and Being Gracious

by Gurpreet Sihat

slaying the dragon and wearing its skin!

The definition of gracious is as follows: courteous, kind, and pleasant. Synonyms: polite, civil, well-mannered. Example: “Smiling and gracious in defeat.”

It is hard to be a writer.

Oh, that I could go back in time to the good ole days when I believed that writing the novel was the hard part.

It is hard to write the story in your heart and sometimes have it blown to smithereens by an errant reviewer, beta reader, critique partner, or agent. Criticism is part of the writing world, and it is so valuable to us. Even that person who says, “This is crap. None of it made sense. The insta-love is unbearable,” is helping you—even though their words are mean and untactful. It’s easy to read something like that and immediately get defensive. The brain registers pain from the very first words and shuts out the rest. But when you put up that shield of defensiveness, you miss the important message hidden behind the mean words. Always, always look for the lesson in things. Everything is a learning experience.

You cannot be sensitive as an author. The moment you put your work out there into the world, you give up the right to be sensitive. No one has time to baby you, and listen to me when I say you are better for it. The publishing world is unforgiving. No one will spare you a one-star review to save your feelings. An agent won’t forgo sending a rejection letter because it will hurt.

It happens: an author flying off the handle and replying to a review with a hateful comment, a querier making the rash decision of replying to an agent’s rejection, a query critique causing the writer to lash out at a critiquer.

Each time this happens, you are closing doors you don’t want to close. Maybe the outcome is that readers won’t buy your novel because word gets around that you can’t take criticism (publishing is a much smaller world than you think it is), or that agent blacklists you, or others refuse to critique your query. You are only hurting yourself.

At some point you have to slay the criticism dragon, and then you have to skin it, and after that you have to make a coat from the skin. You have to know that you are strong enough to handle anything that comes your way. It’s hard work, no doubt!

So I urge you to act with grace. Be courteous, be kind, and be pleasant. The next time you get a terrible review or harsh critique, take a deep breath and tell that person thank you. Thank you for your opinion. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your input. Giving thanks is the key, even if you don’t necessarily feel it.

Be smiling and gracious in defeat, because that way you haven’t really been defeated at all.


Jadah McCoy lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a paralegal. Her debut scifi released April 2016, and the sequel is forthcoming May 2017. In her spare time, she travels the world and posts poetry on her Instagram.

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