LIAN TANNER

Writing advice – learn to take criticism

April 14th, 2019

A young woman doing a creative writing degree at University recently messaged me with a number of questions about my career. Her last question was, ‘Can you give me three tips for up and coming writers?’

The usual advice that writers trot out is ‘read read read’ and ‘write write write’ – because both those things are basic and essential, and far too many people think they can skip them and still become a published writer.

But on this occasion I thought I’d go a little deeper.

Very early on in my career, I was commissioned to write a play for Terrapin puppet theatre. I had no idea of the process, so when I submitted my first draft, and they called me in for a meeting to discuss it, I thought they were just going to say nice things about the script, and maybe ask for a few small changes.

*hollow laugh*

The artistic director, the designer and the puppeteers sat me down and took me through every line of that script. ‘Why does this happen?’ they asked. ‘Why does it happen now?’

It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my writing life – and it taught me a huge amount. It also forced me to understand that, as a writer, you have to be able to take criticism. Because that’s you become a better writer.

So that was my #1 tip: ‘Learn to take criticism. Your writing is your baby, and you want everyone to love it. When they don’t, it’s easy to get defensive and reject what people say, or argue with them. Resist that temptation. Listen to what they say and let the criticism sit with you for a while before you decide to accept or reject it.’

#2 tip next week.

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