Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tip O'Day #338 - Can’t Take Criticism?

Dixon says: “There’s a word for folks who can’t handle constructive criticism.”

I realize there are critique groups, both local and online, that can be brutal. Groups where, if someone starts by saying, “Let me be perfectly honest…” you’d be smart to jump the sofa instead of running around it on your way to the door. Groups that enjoy taunting newbies. Groups that will kick you when you’re down. Groups where Don Rickles would feel right at home.

Thankfully, these are not the norm – and my critique group does not resemble them in the slightest. We put the emphasis on “here’s something you might try to eliminate that problem” instead of “well, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever read.” Which isn’t to say we sugarcoat the truth. We simply feel it’s not necessary to poke you with a sharp stick to get your attention.

However, some people cannot handle constructive criticism. Despite the fact they’ve been invited to check out a CRITIQUE GROUP, they never grasped the concept that people would be passing judgment on their precious little words. They’re not looking for input about what’s wrong. They want a pat on the back, and the assurance they’d already have book contracts if not for the jealousy and incompetence of editors and literary agents.

Sometimes you hear of a solitary fellow who sneaks off to a cave in the woods to write the Great American Novel, and produces an extraordinary work of genius. I’m not a believer. Since my kids have all grown up, I no longer pretend I believe in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, either. Sorry, but I believe the very best writing is – to some degree, at least – a collaborative effort. Sooner or later, even the most brilliant author needs to hear somebody say, “but what if…” Maybe you accept the suggestion and maybe you reject it, but your work is stronger for having considered it.

Returning to our fellow writers who can’t stand to hear constructive criticism, we don’t need to ask them to leave our critique group. They drift away after a few sessions, looking elsewhere for that elusive pat on the back. I feel bad for them because it's unlikely their craft will improve much beyond its current state.

There’s a word for these people – they are called unpublished.


  1. Oh, Dixon, this is a beautiful post. Those stuck-up writers are the ones that become 'authors' by self-publishing and attack the readers who dare to give their books anything less but a five star and raving review. Those are the ones who make Indies look bad and those are the ones who will most probably disappear soon from the scene.

  2. Great post......and now following.

    Follow me at http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.pt

    Nice to connect with you,

    David P Perlmutter

  3. I really needed this post! HAahaha! I am one of those people who cant take criticism at all.. thanks for the great post man :)

  4. This is so true. As an Indie publisher I've noticed that too many aspiring writers either fall apart at the slightest criticism or lash out at the critic. I've always said, you haven't become an author until you prefer constructive criticism over praise and adulation. If you want 5 star reviews then earn it by putting your ego aside and taking the time to master your craft.