Why Critique Never Matters

Written by Rebecca Rijsdijk

I remember receiving my first review for a book I wrote from a person I didn’t know. It was horrible. The reviewer basically said something that is my worst nightmare: “it had potential but fell flat on its face.” It reminded me of the comment of one of the literary snobs that read my work and said, without any empathy or regard for my emotions: “this is not writing, this is shit.” I remember sobbing about it, even after I learned not to take things personally during my years spend in therapy.

I remember a third incident, where someone wrote me a DM suggesting I find a good psychiatrist. This, in a way, was also a review. And it wasn’t very kind either.

And then there were the loving comments that I so easily dismissed because the negative ones stay with us longer.

I used to let those kinds of comments cripple me. I would doubt if I had any talent at all. The thing was, I had to learn that criticism has nothing to do with the receiver, but everything with the sender. Did that person have to DM me about the psychiatrist? No they didn’t. Did the comment about my book come from someone I respected as a writer? No it did not, it came from someone who read all the poetry books I hated. And that made sense. Of course my words were not for her, we had completely different tastes.

People comment and critique from their own world views, pain, mood and unresolved childhood issues etc. When I nag on girls who use their naked bodies to sell their art, does that have anything to do with them? Nope, it has to do with the fact that my ex lover adored these kinds of women and couldn’t see me for what I was because we were a terrible match. These kinds of women became ‘the enemy’ in my head and that had nothing to do with reason. People can hate you just because your face reminds them of the sister they hate or the uncle that locked them in the cupboard as a kid. If the hate you receive isn’t personal, then the same goes for the love. It all comes down to taste and matching your work with the right readers.

I stopped reading books about ‘how to become a better poet’ as well and just started reading poetry that I love in order to learn the craft better. Because who decides what a good poem looks like? Only you do.

So remember this; the only person that needs to dig what you do is you. People will love you, and they will hate you and none of it has anything to do with you. So the next time someone tries to mess with your confidence you simply have to say: “I guess it just wasn’t for you.”

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