header photo

Ann Kathleen Otto


Thoughts on Criticism

I just published my first novel, and I'm having all the apprehensive thoughts other authors have warned about—potential negative reviews being one of them. I've read Chris McMullen's advice in Volume 2 of How to Self-Publish a Book on, and looked at advice on various social media author pages. But I keep thinking about a book I often recommended to my consulting clients who had issues about accepting criticism. Dr. David Burns' Feeling Good is still popular after all these years 

A Healthy Way to Process Criticism

Burns models three ways to process critical comments, from unhealthy to healthy. Let's pretend that someone has just commented negatively on a book that you've spent years developing. Or, worse yet, the child you raised. How do you respond?

  1. The victim. Do you assume your critic is right? Do you worry, get anxious or cry? Do you beat yourself up with, "Maybe I didn't develop that character well enough." "Maybe I should have sent Billy to that private school." Recommendation: Don't immediately accept anyone else's opinion without some serious thought and introspection. Perform a self-esteem check.
  1. Kill the messenger. A question comes up about a historical fact in your novel. Is your first response, "He's always negative", or "She doesn't know as much as I do about this"? Dismissing feedback without considering some critical review of your own isn't the answer.
  1. What can I learn from this?  is the healthy and helpful way to think about any positive or negative feedback. Take a deep breath. Is there any truth to what the person said? Taking the negative word "criticism" out of the discussion might help. Consider everything as constructive feedback. If there's some truth to the person's comments, maybe you will want to look at your project or situation differently. If not, know that you have done the best you can, and move on.

As David Burns suggests, we need to hone techniques to stop negative thoughts as soon as they come. Use the healthy technique. Use feedback to continue to develop your own critical skills.


Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David D. Burns, M.D. (Harper, New York, 2009)

Go Back