By Cathy Yan, Age 15, Canada
Artwork by Katie King
“My writing isn’t good enough.”
“My characters are awful.”
Statements like these can play on a never-ending loop, keeping you from being productive. When they come from within, you can soldier on and tame them by using the tips found in Polly Wants to be a Writer. What if they come from the outside?
I once had an English teacher tell me that my writing was unfocussed, pointless, and wordy. Ouch! The only thing that saved me from falling prey to her hurtful comments was my confidence in my writing style. Even back then, I knew that I had a very distinguished way of writing, and I was proud of that. However, I still took my teacher’s words to heart and learned from them. I didn’t change my writing style just to make her happy, but I did keep her comments in mind—especially the ones about focussing on the main idea—while I was editing.
How can you do the same?
When someone—especially a close friend or a family member—critiques you in a harsh way, you have to really analyze their comments. Don’t let your emotions blind you to tips that can help you improve. For example, if your friend tells you that your characters need development, don’t get defensive and insist that your characters are perfect. Instead, take their advice and look through your piece. Maybe you’ll realize that they have a good point.
However, constructive criticism is different from outright hate. If someone tells you that your writing just plain “sucks” without giving a decent reason for it, never take it to heart. They’re being disrespectful to you, and you should consider having someone else to proofread your work next time. If they insist on heaping their advice on you, simply ignore them. Hate may be inevitable, but it’s never worth listening to. What matters are your style and your ideas. Proofreaders are there to help you tune your work, not to drag you down or pressure you to change.
That being said, all criticism hurts. Having spent all that time building what you think is perfect only to have someone bring you back to reality doesn’t do wonders for your self-esteem. In the writing world, your pieces will be in the public eye. It’s important to have confidence in yourself and grow a thick skin. Take the advice and consider the constructive criticism of others but also stay true and confident to your own style. Your writing techniques may change as you grow, but it should change only on your terms, never on someone else’s. It’s important to allow external factors like constructive criticism and stories aid you in your growth, but it’s also important to find and showcase your own voice. After all, isn’t that what writing’s all about?