As a kid, I loved to sing…until I noticed my dad wincing whenever I ‘hit’ the high notes.

We were driving home from a daddy-daughter date night. I was somewhere around nine or ten and had recently been given the privilege to finally sit in the front seat. I was soaking in every moment. I watched the trees and suburban houses fly past as we drove up the hill back toward our home in Southern California. My dad had his iPod plugged into the aux-chord, and together, we listened to a mix of 80s classics, things like The B52s and Bon Jovi.

As we were a couple of blocks from the house, Living on a Prayer started playing, and I happily began to belt it out. That’s when I noticed my dad wincing in the driver’s seat.

“You know,” he called above the music and my high-pitched shrieking. “You’re not singing very well. Try plugging one ear to hear how you actually sound!”

Dismissed. Rejected. Publicly humiliated. Why, it was more than I could bear!

I slowly looked out the passenger side window, stopped singing, and rode the rest of the way home, thinking about what Dad had said.

I could end the story there—and unfortunately, many people do. As a writer, you pour your heart and soul into your writing. When you show it to someone, you open yourself up to one terrible possibility: They could actually tell you the truth.

Let’s be honest…

I couldn’t sing when I was nine. One could describe the sounds I made as ‘yowling feline’ or ‘dying whale.’ I was utterly tone-deaf. What my dad said was true. I wasn’t singing very well. But the story doesn’t end there.

About a week or so later, my dad called me down to the family computer (say hello to the early 2000s, when we didn’t each have our own device). He’d installed a singing coach program that would show you, on the music scale, where you were and where you were supposed to be. For a while, it became part of my everyday schooling, and now, nearly twenty years later, I no longer sound like a dying whale. In fact, I really enjoy singing.

(Photo credit: Melissa Pauquette)

But I wouldn’t have improved if I hadn’t received criticism.

Critique is hard to receive—I get it. As a writer, I’ve had my fair share of harsh (and, let’s be honest, straight-up spiteful) criticism. But I still need to put myself out there—to put my work out there and improve.

So here are some mindsets I’ve learned that have helped me overcome my fear of critique.

1. Critique helps you improve

You’ll still need to improve no matter how much raw talent you have in any particular art. If you ever stop improving your craft, I’d say that’s a problem! There will always be room for improvement. But how can you look at your work objectively if you never expose yourself to reality?

2. You get to see the impact you have

I spent many years refusing to share my work with others because I feared I wasn’t a good writer. I feared that my skills, talent, and work were meaningless and that showing my writing to others would confirm my fears.

Nobody could tell me it was bad…but nobody could tell me it was good, either.

Your words matter. As my friend Thirzah says on her website, you have a story to tell. Don’t let fear keep you from doing the work God has for you.

3. Your value is not in your writing

You are valuable as a human being. Not because of the work you do. Not because of the art you produce. Not because of anything you have any control over. God’s pretty clear about this one, guys. I mean, the word ‘love’ is mentioned in the bible 310 times (57 of those are in the Gospel of John, and 46 in 1st John).

If you put your value in what you do, the critique becomes personal. This doesn’t help anyone, let alone you.

4. You’re imperfect—Critique gives you practice in living that out.

Like it or not, your writing is never going to be perfect. By putting yourself out there and asking for critique, you’re giving yourself practice to give yourself grace. Funny enough, when we practice giving ourselves grace, giving others grace becomes easier and easier.

Critique is uncomfortable, hard, and often requires a lot of humility. I still struggle with receiving criticism. It’s okay to get nervous and a little scared, but you can’t let that fear stop you from pushing in and pursuing what God has designed you to do.

The only way to really get over your fear of critique is by putting yourself out there and receiving critique.

Take a leap of faith and put yourself out there! A great way to do that is with the monthly critique groups we host on The Company (find them here) or find a local writing group and throw your hat into the ring! Don’t let fear stop you.

Another great way to improve your writing is with your reading! Grab a free short story below to dig in!

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