Dealing with objective criticism

I Write the Songs

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Most people hate criticism

Objective criticism is a topic with which I am very familiar. As a pastor, counselor, newspaper editor and writer/reporter for a newspaper, I get criticized all of the time.

But the reality is, it comes with the job.

Most people hate to be criticized and those of us who often have to be critical, are not that delighted to be critical of others.

Genuine objective criticism is generally an attempt to help and not hinder.

Unfortunately for far too many people, they see anything said or written to or about them as a direct attack on their person and personality. These people interpret the objective criticism as offensive and go on the defense and even begin an attack on the person or persons who were actually trying to help.

Writers have a tendency to be very defensive about objective criticism. Psychology indicates the very nature of our artistic ability often gives us a sense of extreme enlightenment.

It is this enlightenment which gives the writer the feeling sometimes, that they can do no wrong and handle anything.

History dictates the exact opposite.

Zelda Fitzgerald, Virginia Wolf, Sylvia Plath, Hunter S. Thompson, Susanna Kaysen and of course Ernest Hemingway either went insane having to be institutionalized or committed suicide.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey and Edgar Allen Poe all used opium. Charles Baudelaire used hashish, Aldous Huxley used mescaline, Jack Kerouac used Benzedrine, William Burroughs used heroin, Philip K Dick used speed and Hunter S. Thompson used everything.

Two of the most famous writers, Robert Louis Stevenson and Stephen King used cocaine.

The question arises as to why all of this happens to such talented and relatively successful people? The reason is not any single answer but rather many which are all linked back to their artistic ability and a sense of extreme enlightenment.

The rational conclusion to this problem is somewhat simple: writers value their work and don’t want anyone treading on it. When the work is criticized and the criticism is negative it often sends the writer into depression and withdrawal from reality.

There is actually a great paradox here; writers want reviews, objective criticism and comments, yet they know these criticisms can make or break them.

I have many followers, fans, etc. over the various venues I write and work in and I value their criticism.

Psychologist Couch
Psychologist Couch

Criticism Poll

Do you handle criticism well?

  • Yes
  • No
  • It depends on what the criticism is.
  • It drives me crazy and I know I need help
See results without voting

Seek Professional Help

Objective criticism is instructive, useful, builds character and ultimately makes one a better writer.

As a counselor however, I do know there are writers who let some of the more negative criticism bother them, simmer in their soul and ultimately send them into a state of depression or even more serious psychological condition.

If any writer begins to sense themselves moving into a negative emotional state, they should “take a break”, back off and even seek out professional psychological counseling.

None of us is beyond needing a little help once in a while. With an increasing number of writers on the web these days and every person a commenter wearing their opinions on their proverbial sleeve, we would all do well to heed this advice.

I might add, as a pastor and psychologist/counselor, I have never hesitated to seek out professional help when I knew I was getting in over my head. Just try counseling people all day long for decades and see if you don’t need some counseling as well.

My fellow writers please don’t hesitate to get counseling.

©Copyright 2012 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III

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Comments 10 comments

Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas Author

Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. I appreciate such a good comment. Lee


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas Author

Thanks Christy, I always appreciate your read and comments. I have always found letting others know some of my own vulnerable points in both counseling as well as writing has allowed me to help them improve by example. Thanks for the vote up.


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas Author

Thanks for the read and comment. I do agree which is part of my reason for writing the article. We should learn from our mistakes but all too often we do not. Many writers look at the criticism as personal attack rather than an attempt to help.

Great comment. thanks for stopping by. Lee


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Congratulations on writing a hub that exposes a topic very sensitive to writers and for providing answers that make a difference. Thank you for sharing of your own personal perspective which makes the hub even more realistic and applicable.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Lee, I like that you tell your own personal experiences here. Accepting criticism and learning from it is a great way to improve both in one's work and personal life too. Well done, I vote up!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I agree with April. We can only grow when we learn from our mistakes. Of course, I'm certainly not in F. Scott Fitzgerald or Edgar Allan Poe's league so it is different for me.


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas Author

Thanks for the comment. I completely agree and hope I did not give the impression I was against criticism. To the contrary, I was attempting to suggest we simply need to handle it better. I agree that often the comments are based on belief as opposed to the quality of the writing itself. Thanks for stopping by. Lee


Drtruthman profile image

Drtruthman 4 years ago from Harlingen, Texas Author

Great comment. I appreciate the read and the comment. thanks for stopping by. Lee


D22314 profile image

D22314 4 years ago from Canada

Criticism is hard to deal with, no matter if it is constructive or not. We all like to think that what we write is perfect, and everyone else is simply below the level of understanding necessary to see that perfectness. In order to truly improve, we do have to accept that we are flawed, and that we can improve ourselves by listening to feedback. Watch out for trolls though; they bite.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona

I welcome constructive criticism, how else will I improve? I have seen here on the hub though that sometimes the criticism is rather mean and personal if someone disagrees with my views. I want to be critiqued on my writing not my beliefs.

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