How to Handle Negative Feedback as a Writer

By: Rafal Reyzer
Updated: Dec 18th, 2023

how to handle negative feedback - featured image

The most vulnerable part of writing (whether it’s for a client, editor, friend, or even a personal blog audience) is the fact that it is out there for others to read…and appreciate or criticize.

It could be disheartening that after you poured your heart and soul into a piece that makes you proud, some guy would bash you for what you’ve written. So, how to handle negative feedback when you get one or more along the way? Hey, we are on the same boat, my writer friends! So, let’s battle the waves together.

Originally published: Sep 15th, 2022

9 Practical Ways to Handle Negative Feedback Like a Pro:

1. Don’t Always Blindly Accept It

Feedback, whether positive or negative, can offer valuable insights. However, it’s crucial not to accept all critiques without discernment. Many opinions are subjective, and not all criticism, especially from non-professionals, should be taken to heart. Be cautious of peers who might view you as a competition. As a freelance writer, while client feedback is important, remember they may not always have the expertise. For instance, if a client challenges your SEO approach, stand your ground while explaining your professional stance, such as: “I recommend this structure as it aids readers who scan articles, but the final decision is yours.” Lastly, if feedback is delivered harshly, address it calmly, asking for more constructive communication in the future.

dont accept criticisms blindly

Don’t just accept criticisms blindly. Get to the bottom of the negative comments and work for the betterment of your writing.

2. Fix the Problem

The quickest way to dissolve negative feedback? Fix the problem that was pointed out. This isn’t always possible, of course, but if a client is disappointed in a draft and gives you lots of negative feedback, counter it by addressing their comments and submitting an improved draft. Everyone (readers, clients, editors, and other writers) knows that all writers slip up from time to time. So, the best way to make a comeback after a poorly received piece of writing is to improve it.

3. Try to Think Objectively

It’s normal that your first reaction upon hearing that someone didn’t like your writing to be one of hurt or even betrayal. Once you’ve let those emotions pass, however, it’s important to think of the critique objectively.

  • Is there truth to the negative comment you received?
  • Does a piece of feedback show you something about your writing that you wouldn’t have recognized yourself?
  • Did you miss a few too many typos that a client or editor picked up on right away?

The goal of most feedback is improvement. So, if you believe that there is a nugget of wisdom in a critique, acknowledge it.

4. Stop Yourself from Spiraling Into The Abyss

While some emotion upon hearing negative feedback about your writing is to be expected—after all, writing can be extremely vulnerable—it’s important to stop yourself from spiraling. If someone says, “I think the conclusion paragraph is weak,” that doesn’t mean “You are a weak writer,” so make sure you don’t equate the two sentences. Don’t think that each negative feedback is a personal attack on you. Many people genuinely want to see you improve your craft. The first step in stopping a negative mental pattern is to recognize it, so catch yourself before you get carried away and direct any anger inward.

stop spiraling

Don’t let a few negative comments define you as a writer. Get yourself out of the doldrums and rejuvenate your passion for writing.

5. Accept and Let Go

Alright, so you’ve let yourself feel the emotions that accompany negative feedback about your writing. You’ve also stopped yourself from spiraling into an unhealthy thought pattern—now what? The next step is to accept the negative feedback and let go of any emotions it evokes. Try repeating to yourself. This is an opinion and doesn’t define me as a writer until your sentiments subside. Remember, even those working in conventional careers have their challenges, which is why mental health services or workplace chaplains are growing in popularity. So get up, dust yourself out, and get back to the race!

6. Remind Yourself of Your Successes

Rather than succumbing to internal negativity in the wake of criticism, remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished with your writing so far. Maybe you return to a piece you’re particularly proud of. Or keep a folder of screenshots of positive feedback that you can look at when you lose confidence. Nothing triggers writer’s block faster than a drop in confidence, so make sure you give yourself a boost before sitting down to write again.

don't let them stop you

View negative feedback as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block. Don’t let them become a hindrance in attaining your dreams.

7. Learn From It

Now that you’ve dealt with the emotional part of receiving negative feedback, it’s time to use it to your advantage. Think of someone’s criticism as the fuel you need to propel you towards better writing. If an editor remarks on the fact that you use passive language too much in your writing, keep that in mind during your next assignment and don’t make the same mistake twice. If a trusted friend comments that you’re missing excitement when building the plot in a piece of fiction you showed them, use different strategies to invite suspense into your next draft. Think of negative feedback as your chance to grow, and you’ll never see it the same way again.

8. Get to Know What a Client is Looking For

If negative feedback or edits come from someone who is paying you to write for them regularly, use their comments as a chance to hone in on exactly what they’re looking for from your work. Does your client ask you to change sentences that use casual language? Stick to more formal wording in your next assignment. Paying attention to the feedback you get from clients—both negative and positive—is the best way to provide excellent service and may turn a short-term assignment into a long-term business relationship. One way to do so is to keep a document full of the client’s comments and notice patterns. Come back to this document every time you are working on a new assignment and edit your work with their comments in mind, and pretty soon your client may not have any feedback at all!

save cut sentences

Even the best writers get their work edited. But don’t let some of the best sentences and paragraphs you’ve written that got lopped off go to waste. Save them for future use in your other pieces.

9. Save Cut Sentences

It’s easy to get attached to specific sentences you came up with. But it’s important to accept that none of them are sacred cows that should be left untouched at all costs. An editor may cut a bit of phrasing that you felt confident about, or a client may express their dissatisfaction with a piece of copy you were excited to submit, leaving you disappointed and doubting your skills. Rather than pushing the client or editor to keep your favorite sentence, simply cut it and paste it into a separate document of clippings and cut sentences. Then, turn to this document when you need a little extra inspiration. That way you satisfy the person you’re writing for and don’t have to worry about losing a favorite sentence along the way!

Final Words

We hope that the tips we provided here will pull you out of the doldrums after receiving negative feedback. You must build your mental and emotional fortitude if you want to last long in professional writing. For more tips that help you handle the mental trials of the writing industry, check out Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to improve your writing skills.

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here, and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.