No writer or creator of any kind — no human being — enjoys negative criticism.
It often feels personal, even when it isn’t. It makes us feel like our hard work isn’t appreciated, that our thoughts don’t count, that our opinions don’t matter.
It makes us wonder whether or not our words are even worth it.
But that’s also why so many of us keep publishing on a variety of platforms. In many ways, we’re desperate to figure out the right combination of phrases, the right medium, the best times, to express how we feel in a way that will somehow resonate with people, both familiar and strangers.
This isn’t always a bad thing. Many writers and creators become influencers in their respective niches because they keep trying different ways to reach their audiences until they figure out a way that works.
But it’s not always good. Especially when we fail to restrain ourselves from saying or writing things that are, in one way or another, meant to hurt, offend, or oppose certain people.
When we choose to write, we choose the possibility of criticism, whether we deserve it or not.
We also choose what we put out into the world, both professionally and personally. The things we publish online are, mostly, attributed to us. Our opinions, our beliefs, our raw, often unedited, spontaneous thoughts (and sometimes severely edited, well-thought out ideas).
That does not mean we won’t say the wrong things. Use the wrong words. Make mistakes. Ruin opportunities. Destroy relationships. All because of our words.
Because there are consequences to everything we say, both good and bad. Both deserved and undeserved. Both appropriately assigned and grossly over-executed.
Our words can lead to job opportunities, and career-destroying backlash.
They can establish us as credible, trustworthy experts, or forever label us as the opposite.
They can lift people up. And tear them down.
All this might excite you. It might also terrify you.
The ability to reach so many people with one tweet, one blog post, one newsletter, is both a blessing and a curse, in this digital world of instant gratification and immediate repercussion.
Don’t let the seemingly unlimited power get the best of you.
But don’t let it stop you from having a voice, either.
It’s possible to express your opinions without attacking other people. This goes for both sides. You can criticize without unnecessary force behind your words. It is a balance between saying what you feel needs to be said and refraining from saying things just for the sake of engaging in conversation.
Everyone receives criticism. Sometimes it’s for a good reason. Sometimes, it’s just because someone on the other side feels the need to attack us for unknown or insignificant reasons.
Either way, operating in this environment requires resilience. And acceptance. But also the wisdom to know when it is or isn’t okay to say certain things in certain contexts to certain people.
You either figure it out or you don’t. Gain a following or don’t. Wreck your future or don’t.
Technically, it’s all up to you. You can’t control what other people say to or about you. But you can control what you write. And that will never change.
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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.