“You’re a terrible writer. I strongly recommend that you go to the Writing Center.”
“I actually work there.”
I felt my face go numb, and I knew the mascara-tinted tears were about to start. Obviously no one wants to hear that they’re a terrible writer, but hearing my professor tell me I’m a terrible writer hit me like the soccer ball I once kicked into my own face (true story).
I did not stay up until 3 am on countless nights, shaken by coffee I drank 12 hours previously, looking at tear stained pages of poetry to be called a terrible writer.
I did not take a leap of faith with my writing to be called a terrible writer by a college professor who then told me I could never be an English teacher if I kept “writing like that”.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was writing in a totally new genre, so I’m sure my paper really did need work in order to meet the genre-standards. But the fact that I was able to complete a paper in a genre I’ve never experienced before should mean that, at worst, I’m still a decent writer. And it would have been nice to hear what, specifically, I did wrong or needed to change in order to meet genre conventions, rather than hearing that I was simply “terrible.”
After twenty minutes of uncontrollable crying with my mom on the other end of the phone, she finally used her motherly powers to calm me down enough for me to realize that I am not a terrible writer. I’m not even a decent writer. I’m just a writer. I’m a writer in the same way that Beyoncé is just a singer. Many people like Beyoncé, but even she has her haters because it’s impossible to have unanimous praise.
You will never be able to please everyone with your writing, but the fact that you have even put in the work to create a piece of writing is in itself a respectable and brave act. Writing is an essential form of communication, and one of the only permanent forms we have. Whatever it is that you write in this life is what you can be remembered by, which is why being proud of what you write is necessary. Likewise, knowing the difference between how to cope with and find the helpful elements in judgmental criticism and also when to take advantage of constructive criticism will only make you grow as a writer.
If Michael Jordan’s high school basketball coach can say he wasn’t good enough to make varsity as a sophomore, then I’m okay with not being a good enough writer to master a new genre on my first try. I’ll just keep trying to improve. What’s important is taking criticism for the help it can give you (sometimes even if it hurts) and making yourself a better writer because of it.