The Smoothest And Easiest Way To Navigate Harsh Criticism


You probably haven’t experienced the depth of sugar-coated, malicious feedback that I have, because you are not me. I have a peculiar ability to drive people insane, because of reasons. (Modesty, forsooth, would dictate that I pretend to be a  humble nobody, but having been picked out by leaders and teachers and whatnot people for my whole life, and having noticed a pattern of sly abuse and undermining, well, I don’t believe in that sort of thing anymore.)

Even Though You’re Facing Less Vitriol, You Can Learn From Me

When people are really mean to you about your writing, they are generally smiling, encouraging, and they say things like, “You can really do it,” or, “I like your book so much!”

Why do people lie? Well, let’s look at the internal mechanism of the creature (in general). People try to tear down anyone they see as a fundamental threat to their continuous survival and thrivehood of existential self. That means that if you poke your head above the ground, metaphorically speaking, and draw attention to yourself, you will encounter at least three prominent assholes who come over and smile while they stomp in your face.

The Smiling Critic

It is not particularly difficult to navigate harsh criticism from your enemies. We will define enemy as anyone who is willing to sneer at you, call you names, and shout a lot. Those people are so obviously on an opposite side to wherever you are standing that we can safely label them, “the other guys,” and move on. You know, like the bad guys who might not be fundamentally bad, but whose motivations and day-to-day life are aligned in such opposition to you that you can think of them as a fixed enemy. And when we say enemy, we shall mean someone who glories in your failure and pain.

It’s The Friendly Ones You Need To Watch For

I had a best friend when I was younger (operative word: had). At some point in my life, I started to piece together the fact that I always seemed to give, and never got. I speak now not of material transfers of goods, but of invisible and continuous effort of engagement. Once I began to fix my mind on measurable results of relationships, it was only a matter of time before I found that my closest peeps were the worst for my writing.

Don’t Share Your Writing With People; It Won’t Turn Out Well

I have read advice, at least three times in different places, that stridently advised young writers to hide their work away, and only ever release it into the world in form of a purchasable book. The idea being, if anyone really wants to tear up your story, they will have to purchase or steal the manuscript, which protects you from the kind of humiliating abuse that comes from, ahem, critique partners.

Why Are People So Set On Defending Beta Readers?

Once upon a time, there was a disinterested person who wanted all people to do well around them. Instead of building their own life and ambitions, this person dedicated their time and energy to building up other people. Over time, and repeatedly, this disinterested builder-up of others found that the others in question did not make very much progress. In fact, they seemed to get fatter and lazier, artistically speaking, than before.

This person stopped putting out effort, as it were, paused their humanitarian efforts, and began to reflect. Patterns emerged.


The Supportive Friend: You’re so talented! (never reads the book)

The Jealous Dude: Aw, You’re a writer! I love writing! (reads book; vanishes from your life)

The Sycophantic Stealer-Pants: Wow, can I please read it? (steals ideas, writes own book)

The Conversationalist: Tell me all about your idea! (uses you as conversation fodder for months)

The Cannibal: I read your book. It was so great. (proceeds to psychoanalyze your life using your characters as cyphers for your current relationships)

The Pseudo-Intellectual: It’s a lot like [well-known book]. (uses your writing as a launching pad for discussing their pet theories about literature)

The Artist: Can I use your novel as inspiration for my book/play/song/interpretive dance? (draws some mid-range art of your story and posts it prominently online)

The Investor: Wow, this is the best, most earth-shaking idea of all time! (proposes a homemade film/themed product line/karaoke bar from your novel)

The Blocked Writer: Oh my gosh, you’re such an amazing writer! Can you help me with my book? (attempts to offload a manuscript [anywhere from three paragraphs to three million words long] for you to “polish up quickly”)

The Newb: You’re a real author! Oh my gosh! Will you help me?! (attempts to entrap you into a collaborative writing project)

People Will See You As A Pile Of Loose Gemstones

In video games, particularly at the opening salvos of an adventure, there are pieces of money and other useful objects littering the computer-generated landscape. As the main character, and the volitional mover in the game, you are free to pick up anything that you find (even if it currently belongs to someone else).

Greedy Little Humans

People, particularly if your work is good, will see you as an object of value that they can pick up. The thought process goes a little like this: “What? They’re so good! Why don’t they belong to anyone yet? I must snatch up as much of this talent-resource as I can before it is taken up by some schmuck!”

Only Two Options

And then the combination of talent-grab and sabotage will begin. There are no disinterested parties in the creation of art. Others will want only one of two things from you in your journey; they will want to impede and destroy your progress, because they see you as legitimate competition, or they will want to steal from and build upon you as a foundation to save themselves trouble and effort.

All The Same, But With Infinite Emotional Variants In Expression

There are no exceptions to this rule of human nature; when it comes to creative output, people will either attempt to stop you from working, or they will try with increasing ingenuity to graft your work onto their own. You are either an obstacle or a divine-right shortcut.

Beware, Beware, And Never Share Really Good Ideas With Anyone

Protect yourself; no one else ever will. Keep your eyes open, particularly for the people who seem to support you. If you cannot articulate to yourself exactly what both of you are gaining from your artistic relationship, run away fast, because you aren’t the beneficiary.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My books are here. Monday is unfurling around us as we speak.