On my pre-coaching questionnaire, I ask prospective freelance nurse writers, “What is your biggest fear about writing?” Most of the time people say “rejection.” And they don’t just mean Happiness as a writerthat unwelcome “thanks, but no thanks” email in response to a pitch. They mean criticism, too. Here’s how to get over the latter type of rejection.

Understand It’s Not About You

Nobody enjoys being criticized, but it’s an everyday part of life as a writer. Editors will send back redlined drafts that look downright bloody. Clients will say the voice and tone are all wrong. When these things happen, you have two choices: Take it personally and get angry, or understand the feedback is about the work, not you, and seize the opportunity to improve your skills.

Cast Aside Your Ego To Find Happiness As a Writer

Here is my ego: I’ve been writing professionally for three decades. I have written for large brands (Sara Lee, Caring.com, WebMD) and small companies (Mariposa Plastic Surgery). I have won awards.

None of that matters.

Why not? Because each client has unique needs. What I wrote to garner accolades for Caring.com probably won’t meet the voice and tone requirements of a major academic medical center. The person hiring me for the medical center job couldn’t care less about my awards. They need me to hit a home run for them.

A Case in Point

Recently a relatively new client had this to say (paraphrased) about the work I’d turned in to her:

You say things that are too obvious.

You use flabby writing.

You make statements and then don’t back them up with facts.

Your weaknesses take an otherwise strong piece and deflate it like a child’s party balloon.

Would those sorts of comments crush your writer’s spirit? They shouldn’t.

This person has one goal: To shape me into the best possible writer I can be for her clients. That’s it. She doesn’t hate me. She’s not being malicious. Her singular purpose is to help me nail her company’s techniques, style and tone. And that’s exactly the spirit in which I took these comments.

(To be fair, this particular individual gives criticism very tactfully. The above feedback was sandwiched between comments like, “This is a very solid effort from a new-to-us writer” and “Your web writing skills are very strong. Overall, I’m happy with this effort.” Not every editor or client is as skillful at delivering criticism.)

No Matter How Good You Are, a Writer Has To Prove Herself Over and Over

Each gigWriters never get to rest on their accolades. At least, not working freelancers. So set your expectations accordingly.

If you remember that each gig is a new opportunity to embrace feedback in order to continue advancing your writing skills, criticism becomes much easier to swallow.

Do you have any criticism horror stories? Share them in the comments thread!

Wishing you well,