It may be cliché, but it’s true that we are our own worst enemies as writers. We question every word choice. Every sentence and piece of dialogue we craft. It is the nature of what we do, and self-doubt, unfortunately, is a huge part of the process.
So knowing all this, why would we willingly subject ourselves to people who want to do nothing but tear down our work? Those people out there filling the critique boards with unconstructive and thoughtless feedback. People who spew venom in contest forums and well, in general are really, really unkind (and no, that wasn’t my first word choice – you can fill in the blank with something more colorful if you’d like).
In a recent critique, I saw someone give advice on punctuation, word choice, and general theme of the story. In each example they gave, their tone and approach was well…toxic. As if every fiber within them had to scream out and put down the writer. Is that helpful? Will that feedback encourage the writer to shape a better story? Absolutely not. But here’s the thing, if you put your work out there not everyone is going to be kind. As writers we have to understand that. Understand, yes. Tolerate? No.
Where am I going with all of this you may ask? Here’s my point: find betas and critique partners who want to lift you up, rather than tear you down. Surround yourself with writer pals who support your choices and want to guide your work in a helpful direction. Yes, it’s true you must have thick skin in this business, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure someone belittling your work or even you.
Believe me, I understand how hard it is to search through the writing community and find good, reliable CPs. It takes time, but when you land on the right ones you know instantly. They are the ones cheering you on from the sidelines when you’re in a contest. Or lifting you up, and encouraging you, when you just can’t revise that manuscript for the umpteenth time.
There are toxic people out there in every walk of life. No matter where you go, or what you do, you’ll find them. The key is to block them out. Refuse to listen to their negative ways. Instead, align yourself with those who want to see you succeed. I can promise you those people are out there, you just have to sift through the muck until you find your critique partner diamonds!