How Do You Know If You’re Writing Your Best Work When There’s No One Around to Critique It?

Are you on the right track?


It’s the one thing every writer wants, but many never get.

Why? Because it’s time-consuming. And chances are, you’re never going to get the exact critique you want even if someone does take the time to give you one.

What writers think they want is to be told one of two things: either that their work is amazing and they should try to get it published, or that their work is garbage and they shouldn’t even bother.

What they actually want is for someone to validate their personal feelings. They don’t want to be told they’re good if they don’t think they are, and they don’t want to be told they’re terrible if they believe they have a real shot at “making it.”

So what do you do when you’re looking for someone to tell you that all your hard work is going to pay off, when you can’t find anyone who wants to be in that position?

How do you know if you’re doing good work when there’s no one around to tell you so, or otherwise?

The truth is, you don’t.

I know that’s not the answer you want. Trust me — as a millennial, I’d love if there was someone around to give me feedback on every small piece of work I do, day in and day out.

This is not feasible, or realistic. Even if you do get a critique partner or an editor, your work will never be their only commitment. Simply put, there’s just not enough time for everyone’s work to get the same amount of attention. There are too many people with the same dream trying to climb the same ladder. Not everyone can have it all.

You don’t get feedback on everything. It’s not something you earn. It’s a dream you hope will one day come true, but it never will.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep writing.

I think people get too hung up on whether or not their book chapters are “good enough” or their blogs are “relatable enough.” These are not invalid worries. But if you aren’t writing because you’re convinced you need someone else’s permission to do so, you’re doing it wrong.

Unfortunately, most of the feedback we get — especially when we don’t have professionals at our disposal to give us the time of day — doesn’t come when we ask for it. It comes randomly, from strangers. And it’s usually not very helpful, at least, we don’t usually see it that way.

How do you know if you’re doing a good job? Well, if you’re making regular attempts at writing, and doing your best to try new angles and edit yourself and pay attention to your audience reactions (or lack thereof), then you’re doing fine.

If the only comments you get are “this was good,” then you’re doing fine.

If you feel connected to your work, and it’s fulfilling you, and you believe it could become something great someday, then you’re doing fine.

You can’t always rely on other people to believe in you. As cliche as it may sound, you really do have to believe in yourself, at least a little bit. Even if it seems silly to dream like that.

And, even if your writing wasn’t that good, would it really matter if you just kept writing anyway? If it’s something you enjoy or need to do, why should that stop you?

Think about that. Remember it. Especially when you feel like you don’t know if you’re doing it right. You most likely have nothing to worry about.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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6 thoughts on “How Do You Know If You’re Writing Your Best Work When There’s No One Around to Critique It?

    1. Hahaha this made me smile. I mean, I’m not getting any joy out of your struggle, I swear. But hopefully my posts somehow continue to sync up with your slumps, so that you can keep going when you feel “blah.” You. Got. This.

  1. Your point about feedback coming at unexpected times really stands out to me. I often think about how, in the moment after creation, I desperately want feedback, but I have to wait, and often end up receiving it after I’ve become thoroughly entrenched in my next project. But it is still a form of support.
    And, the fact that we often experience a delayed response means we’re less likely to become overly invested in a single project (silver lining!).

    1. True. I think many of us just come to expect that anything related to our work will take awhile. I’ll email a pitch to someone, for example, and nearly forget about it while I move on to other things. That way, if a response does come quickly, it’s like a little treat. :)

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