Listen, I get it. No one likes to be criticized.
It makes us uncomfortable. No one wants to hear there’s a better way to do something – especially when we’ve spent hours on a project and think that we’ve “nailed it.”
Whether you’re writing an article or a taking a photograph, someone else offering a critique can make it a daunting exercise to work through.
In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about the “art” of criticism, and I’ve grown to love the honest-to-goodness “I’m here to help you” feedback.
If it’s a helpful conversation, your craft will grow stronger.
I’ll never forget my first travel-writing critique.
I chose to write about an Australian coffee shop located outside of Faneuil Hall in Boston. As I read my four-paragraph rough draft to one of the instructors at The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, I talked about every single thing except what actually made it an Aussie cafe.
And that was her feedback: “It’s a fun story,” she said. “ But what on earth lets me know it’s an Australian coffee shop?”
And she was right. I raved about the single-origin coffees, the pastries, and the meat pies but I left out what makes this place so Aussie.
So back to Boston I went.
I did some research online and got in touch with the owner, Todd Moore. I explained that I was interested in writing a piece about his coffee shop and asked if I could come for an interview and tour.
I rode the train into the city, met him and a few of his baristas, and I listened to stories about the strong coffee culture in Australia. I sampled flat whites and famous Anzac cookies – and I even took some home.
Getting feedback on your writing will give you an advantage over others.
Because I built a relationship with Mr. Moore, I was able to talk to some friends he’d made since moving to America.
Teagan Rae told me she felt like she was “home again” when she stepped foot inside the coffee shop. James Martignoni raved that Moore’s place is so authentic he now brings his wife and children whenever they want to feel the camaraderie of friends and family.
And after all this, I wrote a much stronger travel article which was finally accepted for publication in Boston Coffee House Magazine that Christmas.
If it’s personal, ignore all of the above…
Of course, there may be times when you actually do meet up with someone who simply wants to pick your work apart. Someone who has no interest in helping you and whose criticism is no good.
Honestly, no matter how many times you agree to rewrite your piece, or go back and re-shoot your photo, it will never make them happy. And that’s ok. Those critics you can ignore.
But hopefully, these naysayers are few and far between. In such a circumstance, just be professional and take the high road. Decide to move on and go with your gut instinct. It won’t fail you.