I have intentionally entered into several agreements where I willfully subject myself to the opinion of others. They are called writing critique groups.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” ~Winston Churchill.
One of my first pieces to be bought and published was a little over 3,000 words. I sent it to a science-fiction magazine. The publisher responded that she loved the story but wanted me to cut 1,000 words. What the [insert expletive of your choice here]? That was my first reaction. I felt it would change the story. But I wanted my stories to get out in the world where people could read them and be entertained. I worked, I cut, I rewrote. She bought the story. Looking back at it, accepting the criticism and paring it to the core made the tale stronger, more visceral. And some of my writing has won awards, and every single piece that has won has been changed and re-written through criticism.
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” ~John Wooden.
The value of criticism is not lost on me. If I am willing to accept it in my writing life, I must be able to accept it in my personal life. If someone has a viewpoint different than mine, they may be able to see something that I cannot. This happens a lot at work. If I am running an analysis and something just isn’t working out right, I will often involve a co-worker or the account executive. Have you thought about this? No, I have not—or—Yes, but it did not apply in this situation. But talking it out with another set of eyes often leads to resolution. The finished product is quite often better.
“I like criticism. It makes you stronger.” ~LeBron James.
I bring this up because of all the mention of lese majeste laws talked about in the news this past year. A young student was arrested in Thailand for saying something critical of the King. A satirist in Germany had part of a poem censored because it was not flattering to the Turkish president. A band in Russia was imprisoned for speaking out against President Putin. In Poland, you can insult neither the leader of the country nor the leader of any other country. Drugs and prostitution may be legal in the Netherlands but not insulting the country’s leader because that could land you in prison for five years. And in the United Kingdom, under the Treason Felony Act of 1848, anyone who calls for the abolition of the monarchy can receive life in prison.
To me…if your position cannot tolerate criticism, then it must be a weak position. This goes for my opinion or interpretation of the facts. This goes for your opinion or interpretation of the facts. To ensure that my writing or my position is as strong as it can be, I welcome criticism. Only by learning of the weaknesses, can I make it stronger.
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” ~Frederick Douglass.