You’d know if you have. Your heart drops to the deepest pit of your stomach and that slow motion smile-to-frown movement that you see in all the movies soon plays on your own face. It’s like someone grabs ahold of your soul, like a towel, and twists it, squeezing it tightly until every ounce of your being has dripped off.
I think we can all agree that receiving negative feedback on your writing feels much like that. You poured your soul out into that piece after all.
I got some of that feedback recently.
The poem I posted last week is the second draft of a poem I also submitted to one of my writing workshops at school. Many were confused by it and it was difficult to hear after I had been expecting a more positive outcome. But the worst kind of criticism is when someone actually dislikes your piece so much that they make fun of it.
I was sitting in class, waiting for it to start, and two people from my workshop were sitting behind me, clearly not able to see me sitting in front of them. They talked about miscellaneous things until they came to the subject of the poems we had worked on. When mine was mentioned, they bashed it for being too strange and obscure. I could have turned around to defend my poem, to explain that maybe they simply didn’t get it, but I just sat there and pretended I hadn’t been eavesdropping the whole time.
My soul felt crushed. I had basically put an entire weekend’s worth of work into that poem and they managed to tear it down in a manner of seconds. It’s a difficult experience to go through.
But the fact of the matter is, there are going to be plenty of people who think your writing stinks. They might despise your writing to the extent that they keep reading it just to tell other readers exactly how much they hate it. There will always be those people.
And they aren’t necessarily a reflection on your writing abilities, either. Maybe your genre isn’t their taste; maybe your writing style is a little different from what they prefer. We all have favorite authors, don’t we? There’s always going to be a book you just can’t get through no matter how many hours you put into it.
There’s always something for everyone. And that means that on this tiny speck of dust in this vast universe there are bound to be people who appreciate your writing just as much as you do. It may just take a few rounds to find them.
As for the haters, try not to take the negative comments so personally. I know it’s difficult not to, especially because writers are artists, and our work reflects a deeper part of us, of our souls. Take that criticism and use it to make your work better. Really consider what’s been said about your piece. Though some people tend to phrase their dislike in not-so-helpful terms, they might be on the right track to giving you some really good constructive feedback. Don’t ignore the hate, just don’t let it destroy you.
Writers have to build a tough skin in order to survive in the literary world. Even the most successful authors had their fair share of rejection letters. The key is not to give up. Don’t become discouraged after a few nasty comments. Let the haters hate. You know your piece is good.