I hear you laughing, but let me finish! The shock took a few minutes to wear off. “How could I get such a low grade?” I thought to myself. After all, I had always been considered a good writer. What happened this time? I did the exact same thing I always did: thought up a topic, wrote my paper, and turned it in. Yet this time, I didn’t receive the usual A that I was used to. I felt out of my league and concerned about my college career. This was the first major grade I received from a college professor, and while not terrible, it certainly wasn’t what I desired.
The remaining nine weeks of my College Writing course were interesting, to say the least. I found myself working harder despite the fact that I initially felt it would be a blowoff class. Through various writing exercises, I found myself rereading what I wrote (shocker!), finding a use for a thesaurus, and asking friends to proofread my papers. While all of these are important, I found the latter to be the most useful and the largest signal of an internal shift.
Before College Writing, I NEVER wanted other people to read my stuff. This was partly because I never deemed editing necessary for “such a good writer as myself.” However, it was the other part of me that ultimately sabotaged the creation of better products. I was too afraid that someone wouldn’t like what I wrote.
Now, dear reader, you may be thinking to yourself, “So what? Who cares if someone doesn’t like your writing?” The modern Gregory would agree with you 110%, but the ancient Gregory would have had a hard time with that. The tired story would play out the same way every time. Judgement of my work was directly connected to me, the writer. If someone disliked a paper I wrote, what must they think about me? They probably think I’m a terrible writer and will second guess all of my great qualities, such as my intelligence or ambition. Ergo, they will look down upon me as a person.
Judgement of my writing equalled judgement of me.
I operated under that assumption for many years, only to find myself starting to break free of it in college. Through my psychology classes especially, I challenged this preconceived notion every time it popped into my head. “Maybe… just maybe… a critique of my work isn’t a value judgement on me?” The thought was a radical one, but I slowly incorporated it into my daily life. The rest, as they say, is history.
People will always judge what others do. The clothes they wear, the car they drive, and, of course, the things they create. Everyone is a critic. However, this notion that “everyone has to like my stuff or I’m no good” is damaging. Despite no empirical data backing me up, I feel confident saying that it is impossible to have every single person you ever meet like you! And even people who haven’t met you may still dislike the things that you create. In anger or frustration, they may even curse your name and judge you. But so what? If J.K. Rowling cared about what everyone said, Harry Potter wouldn’t exist (even though some of you may want him to go away!).
Short story long: ignore the haters, and seek out constructive criticism. These notions may be harder to follow depending on the day, but in general, refuse to give other people’s words power over you. Disarm them before they begin. And when it comes to receiving feedback: get some! My life wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling today if the people I trusted didn’t help me grow through crucial feedback. That includes my writing AND life decisions, too.
Feedback improves your product. Without it, your creation can’t possibly be the best version of itself. I’d imagine that even Shakespeare himself had an editor and / or people to run ideas by. If someone dislikes your stuff, then make it better. But, there is always the crazy notion that someone may like it! By refusing to accept healthy critiques due to fear or apprehension, it is impossible to receive negative reviews, but it is also impossible to hear the positives about your work.
And what of all the hard work from my College Writing course? Well, I’ll let my book speak for itself 🙂
Gregory T. Obert
Author of the critically acclaimed “The Man on the Bench”, Licensed Counselor, Consultant
**Guest author for GreekGuruGuy.wordpress.com**