Ever since I started freelancing, when I go out places with my friends that don't write, I get this question, or some variation of it all the time:
"How do you do it? How do you handle all the criticism and pressure?"
First of all, something that not everyone knows about me is the fact that I'm an actor's daughter. As a result, I grew up directly affected by every audition, every callback, every rehearsal, etc. People that have never given acting a shot don't know that behind all the exterior glamor of movie stars, bright lights, and red carpets is a pretty harsh industry.
One of the most valuable lessons about rejections happened while reading lines with my dad, for a slew of auditions. He did a really great job at all of them but people found the most absurd reasons to say "no," not because they were jerks or anything like that, but because they had hundreds and hundreds of actors to choose from. I always look back on that period of bad luck, and I'm reminded of how random and unpredictable peoples' opinions really are. Ever since, when someone has something critical to say about my work I'm surprisingly...thankful.
Just like everyone else, I do however still get hurt by certain words, from certain people. When I do, instead of directly confronting the criticizer, I get some exercise, blow off some steam, cry if I have to, and talk it through with people I care about and trust. Often they're able to see aspects of what this person is saying from an alternate and insightful angle.
I can't stress enough how important having people to talk to who get it really is. I've met other writers via workshops and special events and far too many of them are lonely hermits even though they're really good at what they do. People need each other to carry on. All you have to do is read my personal favorite novel, Of Mice and Men
to truly understand why we need each other so damn badly.
There's so much that can be learned from criticism. People need to speak up sometimes and say:
"That kind of sucked, here's what you can do to make it a hundred times better..."
If no one ever spoke up consequence would be major. Nothing would ever get done properly. Everything from great works of art to surgical procedures would produce amateur results. That's why when someone wants to give me constructive feedback I don't take it personally. Instead, I thank people for speaking up and telling me the truth.
Not all criticism is constructive which is why keeping our wits about us and questioning every comment is important. Some people are either ignorant or straightforward jerks, and they're the ones that I'm least likely to take seriously. I simply resort to the most valuable tool in the world: a sense of humor. Long story short: a sense of humor is the most important weapon especially if you write. Your heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears helped bring your work alive and taking yourself too seriously makes criticism way too challenging to confront.
When I catch myself taken myself too seriously I either watch Rocky Horror
, the musical or listen to the original soundtrack. That doesn't work for everyone so if you're still not sure how to shake off that "taking yourself too seriously" feeling soul search for something that works for you.