The 5 Stages of Writing Grief

Accepting criticism of our writing is part of the writing process.

This month, we’re talking about revising and editing. Every writer struggles with criticism. A friend of mine breaks out the M&Ms every time she gets a revision letter from her editor. All of us handle it differently, but like grief, it tends to follow a pattern.

  • Denial: Wait? You didn't love everything about it?

  • Anger: Who are you to question my genius? You are obviously a lesser human who knows nothing about [fill in the blank].

  • Bargaining: What can I do to make you like my work?

  • Depression: I suck. Writing Sucks. [it's the end of the world as we know it]

  • Acceptance: My work isn't all bad or all good.

It's easy to get stuck between anger and bargaining. Anger gives us a sense of purpose. In workshop, this is often when we start to think or say bad things about our critiquers, because that's better than believing bad things about our writing.

My friend (see above) is more likely to breeze past anger and jump into bargaining (right after the very trope-ish but true dependence on chocolate). Me, I like anger, so if your first response is to launch into a vehement and often silent argument with your critiquer? I get you.

But at some point, hopefully, I chill out enough to move to depression (no chocolate, just deep self-loathing). Finally, I get to the more balanced response of acceptance:

Ok, so they don't get my genius. It's not their fault, because my vision doesn't unfold on the page. What do I need to change, fix, delete, add-to, in order for the reader to get me?

As you review any criticism, consider how you can move to a more balanced and emotionally-healthy response.

  • Acceptance isn't acceptance that your writing is bad.

  • Acceptance is the realization that you're human and your writing isn't perfect.

  • Acceptance is the realization that your critiquer--be it teacher, classmates, or editor--may have a point.

Join us for Lunch & Learn today, Wednesday July 7, 2021, from 12-1 Mountain Time as we focus on the Revision Process. Reply to this message to RSVP and receive the course link. Registration closes 30 minutes before the workshop.

Looking ahead, join us in August with our focus on the Writer’s Submission Process.