Do We Really Have to Take Criticism?

By: Aryanne Ferguson

“…it’s also a big enough book to take a bit of criticism. Perhaps, we could even say that its faults are part of its greatness. That it could combine so many literary flaws with such great impact is mighty impressive. It must surely be possible that the book can be both mediocre and brilliant, deeply flawed and enduringly great?” —Books Blog post by Sam Jordison

The book mentioned in the quote above is George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984. It was written in response to a literary scandal I completely missed; in August 2014 a novelist/journalist named Will Self broadcast his point of view on BBC Radio 4, which was that 1984 is a mediocre novel, among other adjectives.  Since 1984 is definitely included in the American literary cannon, I can only sing “I didn’t start the flame war…”


There will never be a time in your writing life when you don’t have to take criticism. In George Orwell’s case, apparently this will continue even after you’re dead. Yes, Reader, I know you know that. But for all of us who’ve received less than positive feedback about something we wrote and loved, let’s have more confidence in ourselves. Even if you look back at your piece and oops it was crap, well, Reader, you’re a big enough writer to take the criticism. I don’t even know you, and I know that.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m a perfectionist. I need to do everything more efficiently, faster, better, smarter. External forces don’t motivate me, it’s just innate to my character. So when it comes to my writing, like everything else, it must be as perfect as I am capable. 100% or bust. It will have no flaws! That’s why I say thank you to this quote. Because it doesn’t have flaws, and criticism is okay. So instead of revising yet again to get the critics off my back, some days I’d rather drink ginger tea in the mug that reminds me of my mother, and curl up with a book someone else wrote.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

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