Tuesday, July 11, 2023

How to Respond to Those Who Choose to Judge Us and the Words We Write

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

It's an age-old thorn in the flesh to writers. Judgements. We get them from every twist and turn—from family members who think there is nothing in a writing career to overzealous writers who think their knowledge far exceeds that of the average writer and find it fine to rip and tear apart the other's work. 

Let's face it. Writers don't seem to catch a break.

There! You've just had your 30-second pity party. Now, let's address the people who choose to judge us.

The People Who Can Hurt Writers the Most

1. Well-meaning family members: In all fairness, most criticism comes from a lack of understanding for family members. All they see is the long lead time as we learn the craft and then wait (sorta patiently) for that first contract. "Find a job that will support you." I've heard that more times than I can count, but the truth is, these remarks come from loving family members who don't realize the immense writing opportunities available to writers. I have friends who make a solid $20K-$40K a year writing articles for both paper and online magazines and who fill positions from home for companies needing a constant influx of content. 

By that same token, I have friends who write technical books for companies, student guides and process manuals, materials for products, and product usage descriptions. Trust me. Writing is a career where a writer with a good work ethic can make a tidy living. Because our family members love us, and because they aren't aware of the vast opportunities in the writing field, their "I-just-want-what's-best-for-you" love comes out. Take time to pull out that Christian Writers Market Guide and show them the opportunities available. Get to work and then show them those checks as they come in the mail. 

**Warning: I did not say this was easy. Nothing worth having is easy. It takes work and continued submissions, but you can make a good living once you break in, and with good work, folks will look to you for return submissions. If you question that, talk to our friend and director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Edie Melson. She is proof you can make a nice living writing for magazines and online needs.

2. High School guidance counselors: I don't want to peg all guidance counselors because many are wonderful at helping students get into great writing programs as they enter college. You know, that thing called journalism. There's even a master's program called a MFA. Still, again, well-meaning and less informed counselors will urge students to find good-paying jobs and seek their writing dream on the side. When I met with my guidance counselor during my senior year of high school, I told him I wanted to be a writer. He laughed, then remarked, "Only Stephen King makes money in writing. What else would you like to do? Parents, teach your children that if they feel a calling toward writing, they may have to push a little harder to get past the negative ninnies. We need good writers to teach new writers lest we all fall to AI.

3. Cocky writers: Because we are writers, we tend to be hard on our peers, assuming they should know the ins and outs of the craft. They pick apart every paragraph, making remarks that leave you feeling as though their eyes do the "roll" with each page they turn. It's not hard to pinpoint writer reviews either—for one, they are very long, describing the entire storyline and use words like protagonist, voice, plotline, and story arc. 

It's important to note that every book rarely fails to receive a one or two-star review. You can't please every reader, but the writer must take hold of their confidence and remember that tidbit. You'd think writers would have a kinder view of other writers, but there are those who like to flex their writing muscles and shred books in a review. 

Every book is not for every person, and I understand some books on the shelves shouldn't be. But that is not my excuse to demean a person. Book reviews need to be honest, but they can be written kindly. There is no need to say that there was nothing in this book I liked, or I dreaded looking at it on the table every time I passed it. Kind reviews can be written, even if you didn't like the book. Writers can say, This wasn't the book for me, or I appreciated the work the writer put into this book, even if it's not my cup of tea.

Writers can say the read was difficult to follow or even that it lost them at times, but there is no need to be mean. Readers will get that it wasn't a great book for you. In your honesty, be kind. 

One final note: Should you receive a blasting review, you have three choices. 
  1. Respond back in an ugly manner
  2. Don't respond at all, and 
  3. Respond with kindness 

Most seasoned writers will tell you not to respond. Not bad advice, by the way. If you get a particularly mean review that you feel you must respond to, simply thank the reader for giving you their time to read the book to its end. That's it. Not a word more, because it's tough to be mean when someone offers you kindness. 

As writers, there will always be the critic, and your greatest lesson is to become like a duck and let the words slip off your feathers like raindrops. Have confidence that you are called to do a task. Do your best work and then offer that work back to the Father who has gifted you. Learn the craft. Believe in yourself and practice, practice, practice. More so, don't let the negative words make you sour. Instead, let them become the rungs on the ladder you step on as you rise to your best. 


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. Having served for a number of years as a managing editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and Ironstream Media, Cindy now works as a mentor, coach, and freelance editor. She is the co-founder of Writing Right Author Mentoring Services with Lori Marett and she is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Cindy is also the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and WWW.CHRISTIANDEVOTIONS.US, as well as WWW.INSPIREAFIRE.COM. Her devotions are in newspapers and magazines nationwide, and her novels have become award-winning best-selling works. She is a popular speaker at conferences and a natural encourager. Cindy is a mountain girl, born and raised in the Appalachian mountains, where she and her husband still reside. She has raised four sons and now resorts to raising chickens where the pecking order is easier to manage. You can visit Cindy at WWW.CINDYSPROLES.COM or www.wramsforwriters.com.

Featured Image: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


  1. A good word, Cindy. I especially like your suggestion to not respond or respond with kindness to negative reviews.

    1. Yep. Don't stoop to mud slinging.

  2. If some one gets ugly, I try to remember the adage, "hurting people hurt people."

  3. Great article, Cindy. Especially knowing how you truly live these ideas out in your interactions with others. I want to be you when I grow up.

    1. Awww, that's sweet. I'm far from perfect, though. But striving to follow the golden rule is always right. Hard! But right.

  4. Practical wisdom, Cindy. Thank you.

  5. I've been struggling with this. I told someone I want to pursue writing and their reaction made me feel terrible. It's hard not to dwell on it

  6. Negative nanny. Their ice cream probably fell off the cone! Lol. It's hard but be a duck. Let it roll off. Instead of letting it drag you down, let it become your battle cry!

  7. Thank you so much for this article. I cannot tell you how many times I question whether I should be writing, but I also feel it's a calling. Sometimes it's hard to ignore the naysayers. You've given me a new way to view it. Blessings to you.