Overcoming the Fear of Criticism

by simplesabley

<< All Articles | Print

It's normal to feel moderate levels of anxiety and some fear of failure and rejection when putting something you've put your blood, sweat, and tears into for the world to see. What isn't normal is to allow that fear and anxiety to convince you not to publish at all.

There are plenty of people on this site whose stories stunk worse than a seventy-year-old turd blockage in a sewer that's finally broken through the asphalt above to wreak havoc in the streets. And as you can imagine everyone wrinkled their noses and shunned those turds as if their lives depended on it when they got published. Some were even taken down for their sheer lack of salvageability.

But! The thing that separated the polished turds from the ones plunged back into the depths of the sewers is that some of these authors continued to write. That's right! They didn't retreat into the damp underbelly of their mom's basement; crying and whining about being offended and triggered. Instead, they took all those critiques and insults and hot-diddly-darn-it they learned from their mistakes. That's right, folks. You can take all the hateful insults, honest critiques, and possibly well-meant advice from various internet strangers and better yourself instead of internalizing it all into crippling amounts of self-loathing!

If the fear of rejection is still holding you back then all I can say is this. The worst thing that can happen is your story will indeed suck donkey balls. It might somehow achieve a state of being so horrendous that your readers will resort to reading furry erotica as eye bleach. But, if you put on your big kid undies and take the criticism, insults, and general poo slinging and internalize it all into motivation to show them what for then you can evolve into a slightly less crappy writer!

That's right kids! It is possible to improve yourself through hard work and dedication. Growing a thick skin is just as important for a writer as is learning grammar and story structure. Consolation prizes and pats on the back for just trying to write something--Looking at you, Cogites--then failing to publish on time or at all is not going to help you. All it's going to do is make you stagnate. Do you want to stagnate as a steaming pile of freshly escaped sewer turd? Or do you want to polish your turdliness until you eventually evolve into an absolute unit of god-tier writing?

If your answer was the former, congratulations you're a perma-turd! If the latter appealed to you then good news my turd-like friend, there is hope for you! Everyone has to start somewhere. And most people are not going to burst onto the writing scene with flawless stories that get instantly featured. It is ok to fail. It is ok if people don't like your story. Failure isn't the end of your writing career; it's the start of it. Taking criticism, even if it is purely mean spirited, is a life skill dagnabbit!

So, now that you understand the very thing you fear is actually a potential key to success, given the correct response on your end, there really is nothing to fear in publishing your story. Failing at things is just a part of life. It can be a learning experience if you let it. So, take that failure on the chin, learn from your mistakes, don't take the criticism personally, and definitely don't let it defeat you. At the end of the day how you deal with potential failure is your choice. You can let that fear cripple you to the point of writing a story and never publishing it, hoarding it away instead like Gollum with the precious. Or, you can accept the fact that failure isn't the end of the world and that you can only go up from rock bottom. But that steep climb is completely up to you. Nobody can do the hard work for you. Furthermore, your critics and writing peers are not responsible for your mental health, that's all on you. It's your choice how you react to criticism and failure. You can choose to be offended and let it defeat you or you can better yourself. It really is that simple.

So what have we learned today, kids? Say it with me now! It is ok to fail. It is ok to not be the very best, the best there ever was! It is ok to be told your story sucks and why it sucks since that also tells you how to improve future stories that you write. It is normal to feel a little anxiety despite all this being ok. What is not normal is letting the fear of failure keep you from writing and publishing your work. You typically can't learn to succeed at anything without failing at least once at it. Some of us are born with it, sure, but some of us are wearing drag queen amounts of Maybelline over the battle scars earned from enduring relentless criticism, ridicule, and shame then struggling to improve ourselves one failure at a time.

Every author needs criticism. Criticism is how we improve at our art. If you shield yourself from honest criticism and only surround yourself with disingenuous butt kissers then you're not going to improve. So, the next time you feel that fear of criticism bubbling up just ask yourself: do you want to be that kid everybody hates because he throws a tantrum the second he doesn't get his way and can't handle even the tiniest amount of criticism? Or do you want to be the person who can take it all with a straight face and turn it into a life lesson that helps them grow as a person until they can function as a writer even under the toughest conditions? It's completely up to you.