How to Deal with Criticism And Rejection as a Writer?
Five tips to stay calm when confronted with criticism — also applicable for other professions.
I did not write much and regularly in English for a long time, but my first English article experience was almost 15 years ago. And it was great. I was working as a product owner in a software company at the time. The software I was responsible for was very specialized, unique, and new. Through my boss, a magazine asked me to write an article about it.
One of the good things was that I could write the paper during my working hours and keep the fee (about 1.200 USD for an article) because the writing was advertising for the software and the software manufacturer. My English was much worse back then, but the cooperation with the magazine was excellent. They were incredibly patient, corrected and rewrote the article, and then asked for my feedback again, so it went back and forth for some time. I then published a second article with them. I liked their appreciative way of working with me.
Now I have written articles on Medium for one month, and of course, I am trying to get into publications. I suggested an item to a publication that also pays money (500 USD) for publishing. Their answer: “It’s not a good fit.” Okay, that was frustrating, especially as I already had the publication in mind during writing the article and followed their guidelines very closely. I thought it was a perfect fit.
In another publication, the process is run through peer reviews. There you ask for feedback, work it in, and then you can publish. It was helpful but a bit annoying because I felt that some improvement suggestions were rather a downgrade.
Do I tend to overestimate myself, and/or am I arrogant?
Yes, maybe I am. But criticism is part of life. So how to deal with it?
The following five steps have help me to do so:
1. Recognizing and reflecting on my reaction pattern
- Escape: One prefers to hide away and never ask for feedback for an article again.
- Attack: One tries to tear up the input and find another publication that recognizes the genius.
- Playing dead: One pretends that there has never been any criticism.
Reflection and recognition that a reaction is present make sense in any case. Then you can also see if your response helps you.
2. Take a deep breath
Take two or three deep breaths: Consciously breathe deep into the belly. Concentrate on the breathing — nothing else.
3. Becoming aware that there are always people who don’t like your texts
It’s banal, but a significant insight: You can’t write in a way that everyone thinks it’s great. No matter what and how you write, there will always be someone who doesn’t like precisely that.
So it is perfectly normal to be criticized. It is part of life and unavoidable.
4. Putting criticism into the right relation
Criticism from other people is incredibly painful if we do not put it into the proper relation. But it is never the case that we are only as the critic sees us.
There are always other people who judge the situation and our behavior quite differently. An excellent way to deal with criticism is to create a success list or a success book. Just write down regularly if something has turned out well, and you have received positive feedback.
5. Consider whether and what you can learn from the criticism
The point is to classify criticism and consider whether one can and want to take something from criticism. With some distance to the situation of criticism, one should go through it again. Maybe you will find positive and helpful aspects that you overlooked in the first moment.
Feedback is only an offer. You can accept or decline it.
If you take these five steps into account, it will be easy for you to remain calm in future criticism and maybe even take something positive with you.