May 22, 2019

Death by Criticism, Life by Critique

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”—Proverbs 27:17 RSV

Being a writer or any other type of creative includes some form of evaluation. A criticism or critique may be via an editor, writing buddy, beta writer, writing group member or even a family member etc. Perhaps I should have mentioned most of these sources might be more prone to give a good constructive critique of one's writing. I appreciate those who critique my writing. Criticism is another thing altogether in my mind.

For at least my first twenty years of life I received intense criticism about almost everything I did or tried to accomplish. Without coming off as being dramatic I have to say these years were ones I hoped I would survive. A lesson I learned from years of being criticized is criticism is always negative.

Criticism is something someone else says about you or your work that does not have your benefit in mind. Criticism can be crushing. Criticism can kill your spirit. This became my response at least. For instance, I loved writing composition and English courses at school. I cherished my teachers who encouraged my writing. At home was a different story. I never shared what I wrote with my family for fear of criticism. I always wished this wasn’t the case, but it was.

I have always loved to write. As I have shared in other posts, in my younger years and even into adulthood, I was a closet writer. Fear kept me from sharing my writing. The fear stemmed from pointed words acting as if arrows piercing my heart.

Even today I am sensitive to criticism. On the other hand, I try not to allow criticism to harm me. At such times I pause, take a deep breath and consider the source of the critic. I know I do not allow the words of a critic to hurt my heart anymore.

A summation of my response to criticism of my writing:
1.   Criticism does not have my best in mind.
2.   Criticism may kill my spirit.
3.   Criticism comes from a critical heart.
4.   Criticism disempowers me as a writer if I allow it.
5.   Criticism denies the beauty of the message I desire to convey.
6.   Criticism is shortsighted and sees only what the critic wants to see if anything.
7.   A critic says, “listen to me, you need to quit writing,” while I know I am to listen to God. He is the One who called me.

Contrary to my response to criticism I am always open to my work being critiqued. I want to improve or enhance my writing, therefore, a critique is welcome.


Here is an idea of my response to honest critiques of my writing:
1.     A critique allows me to walk with my head up and not feel beat up.
2.     I still know my writing is worth the effort to work on.
3.     A critique reminds me I am not alone in my writing.
4.     I become more confident in the words I write and the message I am conveying.
5.     A critique encourages me not to be afraid to critique someone else’s writing.
6.     Although my writing is a calling from God, I rely on other writers to help me sharpen my skill.
7.      An honest critique and an honest response to it are life-giving and spur me on in my writing.

When I have an opportunity to critique the work of fellow writers I pray I help build up their skill and calling. We are in this together, therefore, let us build each other up.


  1. Thanks for sharing all this, Alan. Our tough times can be times of growth, and you've taught me today how I can respond to criticism so not crushing, but to enhance my writing!

    1. Hi Lynn! I love that we're in this writing world together. If my post has helped you in any way it is an honour to do so.

  2. Great post, Alan. I like your distinction between criticism and critique and how to respond to each. Keep writing!

    1. Hi Susan! Thank you for the encouragement. Yes, I'm going to keep on writing. :)

  3. This was a wonderful explanation of the differences between criticism and critique.

  4. Thank you Tracy! It's cool how one's life experiences may impact your writing. Thank you for the encouragement. :)

  5. Encouragement, critique and helpfulness are three of the aspect I appreciate about InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. As Connie Inglis said in one of her devotionals to us, InScribe is a koinonia, or fellowship of Christian believers. In our case that would be a fellowship of Christians who are writers. How blessed we are, Alan, to have this support.

  6. Hi Sharon. InScribe is a great group indeed. I love how we sense a true fellowship even though we are separated by miles. I'm hoping to attend the conference in Sept. :)

  7. I agree with you, Alan. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go to Fall Conference this year, but I have been there several years and I highly recommend it.

  8. Sept. 2019 will be my first one.

  9. Alan - Great summary of guiding principles for giving critiques and responding to them. Thank you for sharing.


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