ACW

ACW

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How to move from critic to encourager by Joy Lenton

I gazed at the screen in disbelief. A blog post had attracted a critical response based purely on my writing technique. 

Though I'm my own worst critic, and tend to edit my work to death, still someone had picked up on a mistake my tired mind had missed.

Don't you just hate it when that happens? And I thought, (a bit peevishly): why say anything if you can't say anything nice?  

How should we approach a book, a blog? Do we read it openly, or primarily as a critic?

As we enter a writer's world, we engage with her mind's rich creativity. A well written story will always captivate us—as long as we can set aside our prejudices.

How about non-fiction writers? I believe each genre involves storytelling, reaching deep into our subconscious. Poetry, especially, encapsulates emotions and experiences, real and imagined. 

What matters most is the truth we sharethe veracity of our words and their resonance within, the roots of reality they are planted in. In writing, and in life, let's celebrate our differences and appreciate most what unites us.

Is it possible to take off the critic's hat? Can we savour a story without picking holes in the way it's written? I'm by no means suggesting sloppy writing is a good thing. We should all strive for excellence in our work, yet always try to be kind, generous toward ourselves, as well as others.

Though our inner critic can cripple us from seeing writing (or life) in a positive light, what if we tried to see ourselves through God's lens of loving understanding, rather than via a lens of laceration for all the things we think we've got wrong?


Self-criticism comes as easily to me as breathing, because my fractured upbringing led to a fragile self-esteem.

Now, I'm freer to create, love having a means to write and an audience to share my words with. 

I've gained confidence from blogging, publishing a poetry collection book and having new writing projects on the go.

I still struggle with low self-esteem at times, and find the critic in me cannot be completely silenced. 

Yet I am zealous in supporting fellow authors and encouraging people to write, because we all have the potential to touch lives with our words. 

The same is true for you, whether you share your story publicly or in a private journal. So keep on writing, scribbling, staying faithful, hopeful and encouraged. God sees and smiles at all your efforts—yes, even those you scowl over, crumple and throw in the bin.




Do you know what the real secret is? Your words are helping to shape you just as much (if not more) than they influence others. Let's aim to let the spirit of what we read and write speak to us and rest the critic's hat, because criticism can hurt, unless it's the constructive kind, spoken in love, with the other person's welfare uppermost in our minds.



Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs wordsofjoy.me and poetryjoy.com as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

13 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post Joy. Yes criticism can sting - I even felt that when my mum told me over the weekend that she's found some mistakes while reading through my WIP. But we can be our own worst critics, and letting go of that in order to allow the writing process to shape and mould us is so helpful. Thank you for the reminder to do so on this, my first day back at work after the Easter holidays! xx

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    1. Claire, I completely agree with you about the challenges of being our own worst critic. It takes faith and courage to trust our inspiration and words are God-given and to "allow the writing process to shape and mould us" instead. I'm happy to have been timely in encouraging you on your fist day back at work after the Easter break! May your writing flow as well as it can, and may you rest in how God equips you to share your thoughts. xo

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  2. Joy, your words are so true and beautiful. I have shared the advice of "turn off the critic in your own head" when encouraging writer's, but . . . We all have a critic and a choice when we see a mistake or horrors! A grammar mistake. I had to retrain my critic when teaching writing to 8th graders to point out their strengths first and then pose a possible weakness in the form of a question.
    Our wonderful options now of instant publication leave little room for reflection before responding. Thank you for the gentle nudge.

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  3. Your post is spot on, my friend! There is a difference between constructive criticism, meant to help and approaching a piece with the intent on finding error. Personally, even if I felt led to "help" I would do it privately with the author. We all need a little more kindness in our lives. Both from others, and ourselves. Bless you, my friend!

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  4. June, if there is a kind way to help support one another, then it is always best to try to find and use it. Direct confrontation is rarely advisable and a private conversation is infinitely preferable to openly naming and shaming any errors we may find in another's work. Your statement here finds an answering "Amen!" in my heart: "We all need a little more kindness in our lives. Both from others, and ourselves." Indeed we do. Bless you, dear friend! :) xo

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  5. Dear Joy,
    I cannot help but rejoice over the sweet encouragement that your words always bring to me. As I was reading this post, in the background an old song, "To Be Used of God," was playing. And I feel that all of your words express that desire--and therefore they inspire the same response within my own heart. Oh that we would ask the Lord to let all of our words be used of Him, to speak of His great Grace that has been shed abroad in our hearts. I fall short so often, but the longing is there, and I know that you have been a part of the growing process within me. Thank you Dear Friend, for continuing to share the beautiful overflow of your heart with all of us! xoxo

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    1. Dear Bettie, I rejoice that you have a heart and mind that always sees something encouraging in what I write. It's a beautiful gift. How I smiled at the thought of the song playing as a backdrop to your reading. It seemed so apt for all my heart yearns for! May "all of our words be used of Him, to speak of His great Grace that has been shed abroad in our hearts", as we add our faltering voices to those who write for Him. I also fall short of that glorious goal but I know God sees the intentions of our souls and honours it well. Thank YOU, sweet friend, for the part you play in giving me courage to share my imperfect words. Bless you! xoxo

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  6. I am so sorry someone criticized your writing, Joy. That hurts. I know your desire is first and foremost to glorify God in your writing and to encourage others along this life journey. And you definitely do that! I know God often speaks encouragement into my heart through your writing. About that inner critic... I definitely have a hard time keeping it quiet. And often the voices say what someone has once said to me. May God give us ever deeper healing and courage to keep writing for Him!

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  7. Thank you, Trudy. It happens. And yes, it does hurt. Our pride can take a bit of a dent, as can our confidence. But when we remember just Who we write for and why we write, then it doesn't seem so bad. Because, ultimately, we write for an audience of one and for God's approval alone, even as we seek to share words that will reach and speak to others. I'm sorry to hear how loud your own inner critic can be. It's an area where many still need help and healing. We definitely need a hefty dose of holy courage to keep us tapping away at the keyboard! Thankfully, the majority of feedback we receive is of the positive kind, and that encourages us to continue. May God bless your words to His praise and glory! Bless you, dear friend. xo

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  8. So, so good, Joy. Grace in all things.....
    "What matters most is the truth we share—the veracity of our words and their resonance within, the roots of reality they are planted in."

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    1. "Grace in all things..." Amen, my friend! That sounds like a mantra for life. Jody, thank you so much for following me over here and adding your wise voice to the conversation. I appreciate you! xo

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  9. "Do you know what the real secret is? Your words are helping to shape you just as much (if not more) than they influence others." You are so right, my sweet friend. I'm so glad I read your words today. I can be my own worst critic, too, and sometimes try to hard to make a blog post "just right." I'm learning to just not worry about it and do my best without a lot of stress.

    Thanks for your inspiring words! Blessings to you dear sweet poet/sister/friend! xoxo

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    1. Gayl, I know how hard it can be to consider a piece of work complete. When we look with a critical eye there always seems to be more to edit, alter or add to. Thankfully, participating in five-minute-friday is a great antidote to being overly cautious and painstaking before we press publish! Maybe the less we stress, the better our efforts will be? Rather like parenting, accepting we can be "good enough", even if we cannot be perfect, is a step in the right direction. I'm pleased to hear you are learning how to silence the inner critic and share your work without worrying about it. Happy writing, dear poet/sister/friend! xoxo

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