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What's Your Percentage?

We NEED negativity and criticism

How much negativity in your feedback can you stand? 10%... 20%? 90%?

Every writer needs negative criticism. We need to be told no. We need to be told what we are doing is not good enough. We need to grow. Growth without being told why we are wrong is very difficult to achieve, but we don’t all have the same tolerance for being told negative things.


Deep down, we all know this is true. If nobody ever told us we were wrong, or pointed out our errors, we would all still be five-year-old children struggling to get by in the world. We need “No.”


I can’t tell you what your percentage is. I can only tell you what it is not. It is not 0%. And it is not 100%.


When nobody tells us what we write is crap, and every author writes real stinkers sometimes, we will never know it could be better. Our own words sound better in our heads. Gaps in our stories don’t stand up and wave their hands to the author because we know what we meant. When a character acts outside of their personality, we know why, because we know what makes them tick. We need to be told these things by someone else, so the number is not zero.


It is not even close to zero for most people. And the more you learn how to hear that what you did is wrong, the better writer you will be. We grow tolerant of the criticism, don’t take it personally, and learn how to incorporate it into our pieces.


Remember, “No,” doesn’t indicate the feedback has to be unconstructive or mean. Sometimes it might be, but an understanding of why everyone says no is incredibly important.


On the other side of that coin, the number can’t be 100%. Nobody can be told they are bad at something all the time and keep marching forward forever. Some people have a lot of grit, and they will push through 99% of the time, but that glimmer of hope has to be there. Nobody can believe they are a failure all the time.


So, what do we do about these numbers? First, you need to go find them. If you are a writer with no feedback, you need to fix it. Find a meetup that does book critique swaps. Find beta readers. Pay a literature student.


Find someone who will be in your corner. A friend, a spouse, a family member, a co-author, or an editor. Someone has to believe in you. It takes courage to tell people you are a writer, but if you don’t, you will walk a very hard road alone. Introduce yourself as an author. Introduce yourself as a creative, and you will find there are more kindred spirits out there than you may think.


Work on finding your tolerance level. Find your critics and embrace them. Find your supporters and embrace them too. Most importantly, remember that writers write. So go jot down some new words.

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