On Monday, I went to the “Meet Your Major” get-together. (For those of you who don’t know what this is: it’s basically where a major gets together in a room and the faculty and upperclassmen introduce themselves to the freshmen.) During this meeting, an upperclassman—not sure what her name is—was asked to give advice to the freshmen. She said, “Don’t take criticism to heart.”
At the moment, I didn’t know what kind of advice to give. I was so excited to read my poem to the freshmen—‘cause I was asked to bring one—that I didn’t care to give them advice on anything. I wanted to say something that they would remember throughout their entire college career like the girl had done, but nothing popped up.
Until this morning. I was in the kitchen, making myself some oatmeal, when I thought about what she said, “Don’t take criticism to heart,” and all of a sudden a speech brewed in my mind.
I semi agree with [insert name here]. If someone tells you that your poem sucks, don’t take that to heart. That person’s an idiot and clearly doesn’t get your writing. But if that person tells you to CHANGE your poem, that’s when you should step in and say, “Don’t tell me what to do with my art.”
Basically, don’t tell anyone how to write their poem, or to add a setting in their story or change their characters; creative writing comes from your soul. It’s not an essay that you wrote for a grade; a poem, or a short story, is a part of you that you’ve put on paper, and for someone to tell you what to do with it becomes THEIR poem, not yours.
So, when you offer criticism to someone—especially when it’s a writing from the soul (as Perry Glasser puts it)—don’t do it in such a way that attacks the writer. You should tell them, “I found it confusing because there’s no setting,” rather than, “You should add a setting so it won’t be so confusing.” This subtlety makes a huge difference when offering criticism.
And if you ever feel personally attacked or emotional because of their harsh criticism I understand. It’s not an easy thing to sit there and have your work judged. However, don’t take it personally when they say that it’s not good. But don’t stay quiet when they tell you that you should change it.