Friday, August 10, 2012

Life Lessons—Criticism, Your New Best Friend

by Reba J. Hoffman

For some reason writers—particularly new ones—have a dreaded fear of the “C” word. No, thankfully not cancer. I’m referring to criticism. My guess is that word just made your skin crawl. There are a few reasons why.

Writers usually feel things on a very deep level. Anything feedback is internalized down to the toenails.

Our work is like our baby. Criticizing it is like telling us our newborn looks like the prize goat at the county fair. It cuts to the core.
Our identity is in the words we write. We aren’t writers who type words on a page, we ARE the words on the page.

I cannot tell you how many (hundreds of) times I have fought in defense of my baby. Ok, truth be told, I was horribly defensive any time I received criticism. I finally realized—yes I’m a little slow—that they were doing me a favor. They were actually providing a dress rehearsal of readers who might snag my book off the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

When I finally took off the boxing gloves and listened, I realized most of their comments were correct and valid. I began really taking an honest look at my imperfect prose I called a story, and decided to use every bit of criticism as an open invitation to learn and grow.

Yes, I see you shaking your head and I know what you’re thinking. Rhonda Reader doesn’t know the first thing about point of view and wouldn’t have a clue whether or not you were head hopping with your characters. So, her criticism isn’t valid, right? Umm… no.

See, here’s the glory of that wonderful friend called criticism. When you fulfill your dream of being a published writer, you will encounter at least one Rhonda Reader who tells the world how badly you’ve developed a storyworld.

Rhonda may not be your friend, but she hands you the gift of patience, virtue, diplomacy and tact, all wrapped up in a tight little bow. No doubt the next time you sat down to write, you’ll work that much harder to create a masterpiece.

It’s not always a fun, comfortable or exciting relationship but criticism is a trusted and valued friend. You’ll grow much, much more from your new best friend than those who dote over your prose. Trust me. I know.

What about you? How have you handled criticism about your writing? Share it here.

Reba J. Hoffman is the founder and president of Magellan Life Coaching ( She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is a natural encourager. She serves as Member Care Coach for My Book Therapy and is the author of Dare to Dream, A Writer’s Journal. You can connect with Reba through her motivational blog, Finding True North, or by email at You can also follow her on Twitter at @RebaJHoffman.


  1. Love this post, Reba. When I began my writing career, my husband couldn't believe it. I'm sensitive and take things personally so he wasn't sure this was a good choice for my already self-doubting personality. Turns out, it's been the best for me. I've toughened up in a good way and learned to improve my skills instead of sulk because of criticism. And posts like this remind me to keep going. Thanks.

    1. Oh Kim that's wonderful news. That is so exciting!

  2. Love this, Rita. Your stuff is always so encouraging and reminds me again how to reframe my reaction to criticism.

  3. Well, looks like we both had the same sense of urgency to get this message out this week! Guess somebody needed to hear it...besides us!

    Thanks, Reba!

    1. Incredible Vonda. More than any other time in the history of humans, we are bombarded with criticism. One reason- and a very good one- is that we humans are venturing out more, taking more risks, and courageously putting our writing out there.

      Thanks for your willingness to help writers strenghten their resolve to see their words in print.

  4. Reba,
    I'm a new writer and when I started 2 years ago, I had a difficult (ok,awful) time receiving criticism. But it has helped me improve. It's a work in process (I am) but it's getting better over time.

  5. Ellen, I don't think we ever get to the place where it feels good to get criticism. But, we can learn to cherish it. Like the Bible says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."

  6. I hate it when they say my baby is ugly! Seriously, I've never had trouble with criticism...much. I have 4 great crit partners and respect their opinions.