• 3 Signs You’re Dealing with a Counteractive Eternal Critic

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 4 comments

    There’s this quote that I can’t find accreditation for but I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It states, “Opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one.” However not every opinion you receive is a helpful one. Sometimes the feedback you get on your story has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and more to do with the personal taste and knowledge of the person giving the feedback.

    Here are three signs that point to what I like to call a counteractive critic:

    1) When asked “Would you improve famous artwork X?” they respond, “Yes,” but they can’t tell you why. I did this with a friend I’ve known and trusted for years. When I asked if she would improve the Mona Lisa, she said she would make Mona Lisa smile more. My friend couldn’t say why she’d like Mona Lisa should smile more, she just thought Mona Lisa should.

    2) They don’t have boundaries. I was sending out signed copies of a book I was published in this past Christmas. I was super excited to write messages to my friends and sign copies of the book. This same friend from example 1 was sending out packages to a few of the same people for the winter holidays and offered to let me put my book in her bigger packages. I thanked her and handed over my copies. What I didn’t know was the cost of doing this would be my friend writing her own messages in these books that she had nothing to do with.

    3) Their opinion is the only right one.
In middle school when my dad was my editor, he fixed all my essays. Even ones that didn’t need to be fixed. I remember my dad changing a couple of sentences in my essay about the Industrial Revolution in America, changing correct information to incorrect information and in one case changing the word “good” to “bad.” He said he knew better than me, and I handed in the Dad-approved version. My teacher pulled me aside because she wanted to discuss why my essay was filled with things opposite to what we learned in class. I didn’t tell her my dad had looked over and changed my essay—and I didn’t tell my dad my teacher thought I wasn’t paying attention in class because of what he wrote. I did learn that if I don’t want people to get the wrong impression about my writing, I might want to try trusting myself to write well.

    Now when I’m faced with someone who will never be satisfied with what I do, I try to not divulge what I’m working on. But sometimes it can’t be helped, so I’ve developed a thick skin and strong neck muscles from nodding in agreement—even though I often don’t. Then I write out a list of at least three things about my story that I’m happy with to counteract the new negative thoughts in my head.

    (Please note that you won’t need to do something like that when you’re working with professional editors like those here at WriteByNight. An eternal counteractive critic is like your niece giving you a pedicure, while WriteByNight is like a luxury spa that specializes in pedicures.)

    Can you think of any other signs you’re dealing with the counteractive eternal critic? What do you do to deal with them?


    Jacqui Bryant’s love for reading, ability to create adventure, and general curiosity for all things unconventional in life may outweigh her ability to write well. But she hopes not. 



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    Laura Roberts

    Nice post! There are always going to be naysayers, and it’s good to be able to recognize them instead of tying yourself (or your manuscript) up in knots trying to please them. I think another good way to identify a perpetual critic is to ask them to say something positive about your work. This is kind of like your question about whether they’d improve something already good, but forcing them to identify what is good should (in theory) make them realize that they are being overly negative. Sure, there are lots of pieces with lots of problems out there, but… Read more »

    Christopher Savage

    It’s always seemed important to me to realize who the critic is. Someone who’s opinion you actually respect or just a person tattering off some comment or two? When I realize that thought, then if it’s a negative comment (or a comment that makes me feel negative) and it’s someone whose opinion I admire, I consider it. If it’s someone whose opinion doesn’t matter much to me, I probably just nod and tell them, “Hey, that’s interesting. I’ll think about that.”


    I think the worst criticism I’ve ever gotten (that didn’t do anything but give me my very first writer’s block in over 25 years) was a “friend” told me she couldn’t finish reading my SHORT story. She said she just couldn’t bring herself to finish because it was that bad at holding her interest. Not how to improve it, not what part was lacking, etc. That hurt me deeper than I thought back then. And you’re absolutely right, you have to pay attention to the source your getting your info from (AND why you have so much faith in what… Read more »

    Charity Kountz

    Excellent post and I love the examples you give, although number 2 shocked me. That goes beyond any common sense or etiquette of friendship. I hope she at least wrote about YOU the author in a misguided attempt to help promote your work and wasn’t so narcissistic as to make it something about her. Kudos to you for learning some valuable life lessons and sharing them with the rest of us. Sadly I tend to sometimes fall into that last category (but I’m trying hard to beat it!) so I know all too well what that’s like. Great post –… Read more »

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