When is it Okay to Ignore Criticism?
Not all feedback is good feedback.
If you’ve ever been through a workshopping process, you’ve probably already learned this lesson already: Not all feedback is created equal.
It is absolutely worth listening to all critique or feedback that you are given on your work, but then you must decide what to actually internalize and apply to the revision process. You may notice patterns in feedback; if multiple people offer a similar suggestion, then there likely really is an issue in the work that needs to be addressed. But sometimes one person goes rogue and targets content that no one else seems to have an issue with. What do you do then?
Here’s the thing about feedback: some of it is downright mean-spirited or unfocused or unhelpful. You don’t have to take and apply every single note given to you (if you did, it wouldn’t really be your work anymore). Listen closely, but ultimately, you must trust your instincts.
If the critiquer seems weirdly out for your blood or their notes are a lot of, “I don’t know why, but I didn’t like X,” or they tell you they don’t think your character would act that way when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they would — that’s when it might be okay to take what they’re saying with a grain (or two) of salt and to only focus on genuinely helpful feedback.
Criticism, in the case of writing feedback, is meant to be helpful. If all it’s doing is being negative and tearing you down without aiding you to rebuild, then it does not count as helpful. You can put some notes in a drawer and just leave them there. Take only what is useful to you and apply it thoughtfully. You revisions will thank you.
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Deidre Delpino Dykes, an author of speculative fiction, may actually be three birds in a trench coat. She is the co-organizer of the Columbia Writers critique group in Maryland and a passionate player and GM of tabletop role playing games. She is working on a novel-length manuscript and enjoys writing short and flash fiction, some of which has appeared in Wizards in Space vol. 1, Ghosts on Drugs, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Deidre tweets as @DeidreDykes and previously worked as a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine.