There are two ways I’ve found I can creatively respond to criticism, particularly painful criticism.
One is if I feel there’s any truth in the critic’s words, I think about it, see if it’s something I can fix. I keep an eye open for that something in my future works. I see if I can pounce on the flaw, rewrite it, transform it into something better, thus using the criticism to make my work better.
Two, I image the critic’s words, the shape their mouth makes while the angry words are coming out of it. I visualize how the words would smell, what shape they’d take. I visualize the critic’s nose, the way it wrinkles, or the nostrils flare. I imagine the nose hair sticking out of those nostrils, what color it is, whether the nose hair itches. I picture the critic scatching their nose in irritation. I think about what kind of clothes they’d wear, how tight their pants are, how they’re wearing thin at the crotch. I imagine the heat building up in the room they’re in, the sweat stains forming on their shirt underneath the arm pits. I come up with a job for the critic, imagine how they interact with their co-workers, how many hours they work in a day. I feel the upholstery of their desk chair sticking to their skin, imagine the sun hitting them right in their eyes. I imagine their co-workers, wrinkling their nose at the smell of the critic, sweating in their seat. I imagine the kind of food available in the vending machine outside, the inedible sandwich that tastes like plastic. I imagine the itchiness of their scalp as the critic scratches it, causing flakes of dandruff to fall onto their dark shirt (which they really shouldn’t have worn because it was so hot), right before someone they want to impress stands over their cubicle, making a pointed noise to let the critic realize they’re there, watching it rain dandruff.
At the end of this exercise, I have a new character and may actually be feeling sorry for the critic after what my imagination has done to them. In the end, I’m no longer feeling hurt or angry. I may have giggled my way out of my hurt feelings, thinking, “Well, you may think my work is garbage, but your day has been garbage.” No, I have no idea if their day has actually been garbage, but my work may not be garbage either. Not to the right readers.
How about you, dear reader? What creative ways have you felt to deal with criticism?