I have been lucky enough to have access to writing workshops since high school - I took classes for about six years straight! So as you can imagine, I've gotten all kinds of different feedback. I've met people who are amazing at constructive criticism. Those people could tear my story or poem apart, but they were so specific about their problems and suggestions, I never had trouble figuring out where they were coming from. And most importantly, they were always polite. Real constructive criticism doesn't discourage me - it energizes me to get back to work and make my writing better.
Not all critiques are like that, of course.
There's feedback that has stuck in my mind if just for how much it made me want to crawl under my desk. Some days, out of the blue, the worst ones will just pop into my head. I think the one that hit me hardest was the one scribbled on the back of a screenplay I wrote for a class. I will be the first to admit that it was not a good script at all, but I still almost choked when I read the verdict:
What was good: nothing.
What was bad: everything.
Suggestions: stop writing.
Ughhh. My stomach still goes into knots thinking about it!
It hurt like hell at the time, but the more I looked around, the more I realized that all my favorite authors had one of these: the critique equivalent of a punch to the stomach. It may not have taught me anything about my subpar screenplay, but it did teach me that I didn't have to take everyone's word as truth. Once of the hardest things to do as a writer is look at all the feedback you get and figure out what to take away from it. If someone tells me to "stop writing," there's nothing to take away from that. I'm obviously not going to stop. So la dee dah.
I wanted to post this here today to encourage those of you who might be down on yourself, whether it's because of feedback that stung, or the little voice of self-doubt in the back of your head, which can be even harsher. It hurts, and you're not weak or thin-skinned for that. We're all going through this process of trial and error together, and sometimes it's important for me to let myself feel discouraged. But pursuing this dream of mine is an adventure. If adventures were easy, we wouldn't have anything to write about.
And besides: there's no better revenge than success.