The 5 Stages of Receiving Negative Criticism

A while ago, my creative writing professor said although he liked the first part of a story I had handed in to him, the last two parts seemed gimmicky. After five minutes of white noise and rapid eye blinking I thought, for a man who makes a living choosing the right words you’d think he’d come up with something a little less harsh. But harsh words or not, he was right, although it took me two weeks of grief to understand why.

Getting feedback on your work is essential to produce a good story. We like to think that we can take constructive criticism on the chin (especially when it’s positive), but when we’ve coddled a beloved story for months, edited, and tucked it in bed,Ā it’s hard to deal with negative feedback. Seasoned writer or no, you’re likely to go through these stages when a story you’ve written isn’t received as well as you thought it would be.



You don’t like my story? I know you’ve had years of training, write professionally for a living, and have published several novels, but you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.



For every red mark you’ve left on my work, I will kill you.



Okay, my story is kind of terrible. If I could just write one amazing book I promise to drink you once a day for eternity. That’s how all the good writers do it anyway, right?



It’s true, I’m a phony with no talent. I’ll start looking for a real job as soon as I’m through wiping my tears with the pages of my unfinished novel.



Okay, I wrote a bad (really bad) story, so what? I’m going to take your feedback and those red marks all over my pages, and turn them into something awesome.

Sometimes things are best said in GIFs. I think I’d be more accepting of negative comments if they came in GIF form. šŸ˜€ When was the first time you had to deal with negative feedback on your work? How do you deal with the red mark of death?

30 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of Receiving Negative Criticism

  1. The best teachers eschew negativism. Instead, they encourage and guide, praising the students strengths and carefully asking them, “What might be some different ways to do this one part over here? How would doing it this way or that way change this or that about it?” They teach the student to be a creative problem solver and a self-editor without treating them like a puppy who just piddled on the rug.

    Think about it: If you’re singing in the car and your friend turns to you and says, “My god, you really can’t hit those high notes, can you?” it makes you snap your mouth shut and never want to sing in front of anyone ever again. But if they turn to you and remark, “You’re really good, you sounded kinda like Katy Perry on that last part,” it makes you want to belt out three more songs right on the spot.

    Encouragement inspires, criticism kills.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree! My teacher saying my work was gimmicky is the least helpful comment I’ve received on my work because it literally told me nothing (other than I was doing something bad and should stop immediately). Later on my teacher elaborated on exactly what he meant (probably because he saw the destroyed look on my face!), but by that time I had skipped two of his classes and figured out what was wrong with the piece on my own.
      It’s definitely much better to encourage development and thought processes that improve the story, and a lot of how we receive criticism has to do with the way it’s given.


      1. Sounds like you’re smarter than your writing instructor. I had the same experience with mine in my freshman year of college. A lot of teachers come into our lives to boost our confidence in how far we’ve come precisely by being bad teachers. Have you met my parents? Ha, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very accurate.
    Feedback is not east to deal with always, but usually there is something there that is valuable to learn from. Some people are aholes though and will trash writing just because they do that with anything.
    One thing about WP is that the feedback is a little neutral generally which makes sense, as meaning is easily lost in text and nobody wants to cause offence.
    Thats why I need a writing group ā˜ŗ

    Liked by 2 people

    1. WP is an ego stroke most of the time, but sometimes you find a group of readers who really get what you’re trying to do so can give useful feedback to guide you. Writing groups though, are, for lack of better words, the shit. They might sting a little in the beginning, but once you’ve pushed through, it’s well worth it.

      Poop analogies… They never fail.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It gets easier. I’m much better at rummaging through the wreckage and pulling out the valuable stuff too. A few days ago someone had a go at me for being a vegan, and I was like, ‘Meh, at least she didn’t say my writing was crap.’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I literally just laughed out loud! You’re vegan? So your skin must be impenetrable!

        It’s nice when you get a hang of finding the treasures in a pile of not so good writing. And all the rest can still sit in the drawer and be useful in the future, maybe not the writing itself, but the storyline, tone, or characters.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Thanks. Yes, I had plenty of gall thrown my way! We all do. The trick is to take the punches and learn how to fight back stronger. (I blame this analogy on watching Creed last week.) šŸ˜‰ Great post!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I think that’s a Vulcan.
    I agree, I have a crap writing file, sometimes I’ll take out a line or a character, plant it and see what it grows into. Quite often none of the original material remains. It’s like a kind of lost wax process.
    Love long and prosper.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think I do well with criticism. I instantly become defensive. I used to love showing my husband my poems but after I noticed that he always found something not right with them I outright stopped. He’s a doctor what does he know about poems anyway. Hehhe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, nothing, that’s what! It’s always tough having someone notices something in your work that you didn’t, but when they do it’s good since you have the opportunity to look closer and change it – or not!

      Liked by 1 person

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