Taking criticism without hating the editor
By Cia Gladden and Jennifer Wang
I’m a writer.
It’s easy to think it while I watch my classmates suffer through draft after draft of their own paragraphs. In school, my final essay is often my first draft. I don’t need a rough draft. I know what I’m doing.
Rosy glass panels slip over my eyes when I glance over my own work. I’m unable to see the errors, the awkward sentences. And although my mistake-riddled first drafts are often better than the average student due to my writing experience, it doesn’t pan so well when I submit it to Polyphony. Writers judge other writers like two gladiators in a death ring: every spelling error, every missing comma, and every font change is regarded with disgust.
What an awful writer, I think, eyes glazed over from boredom due to the essay I was forced to peer review. At least I’m not this bad.
But when I take those rose-colored glasses off, I see that I make mistakes. Just like every other writer. It feels like a personal attack when someone else reads my writing and decides to correct it. Outraged, I usually dismiss the criticism because what does the other writer know?
However, it’s virtually impossible to improve your writing unless you accept feedback from other writers. So here’s my guide of how to accept criticism from editors and other writers:
Calm down. Relax. Grab a drink because this might be a long, frustrating revision session.
Recognize that the editors are only trying to help you. Our job isn’t to tear you down or tell you that your writing is not worthy. We have nothing against you.
You have room for improvement. Every writer, young or old, new or experienced. famous or not, can improve. Stephen King, in On Writing, praises his editor’s feedback. Flip to the Acknowledgements section of any book, and you’ll probably find a paragraph dedicated to thanking the editor. Successful writers are able to improve because they embrace feedback, and you can too.
You are a writer, and no one can take that away from you. No matter what happens, your voice deserves to be heard. Poetry, prose, nonfiction, music… It doesn’t matter. You’re worth it, and you need to treat your writing as if it's worth your effort too.
You’re human, and you are not your flaws. You’re made up of all kinds of things: strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Let others point out the flaws of your writing, and know you have the power to change them.
No matter what that commentary says, I believe in you. Polyphony believes in you. Just keep writing!
Cia Gladden is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger for Voices.
Jennifer Wang is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger for Voices.