Janet Muirhead Hill Identifies Categories of Critics a Writer Meets

Janet Muiread Hill, author

Guest Blogger Janet Muirhead Hill, author of the Miranda and Starlight series of six books and Danny’s Dragon, a story of wartime loss continues her series of Riehlife blog posts on Overcoming Rejection and the Writing Life. Tomorrow she’ll discuss “How to Separate Our Personhood from Our Work When Receiving and Using Criticism.”–JGR


Monica Wood says in her book, The Pocket Muse that “every writer needs two critics, one who gives only praise and another who never ever lies.”

The love-everything reader: I agree that the encouragement of family and friends who love everything I write goes a long way toward keeping the creative juices flowing.

The gently discerning listener: In my writers group, I have the support of people who never lie, but they tell the truth in the most gentle and supportive way, qualifying with an “I may be wrong,” so that it hardly feels like criticism and is very constructive.

The Nasty and Adversarial Critic: There are other kinds of critics a writer is bound to encounter along the way—one who, for reasons we may never know, seems bent on tearing the writer and her work apart, apparently taking personal umbrage at what has been written and is fighting back.

The Clueless Critic: There is also the critic, who, though he harbors no malice, does not understand your viewpoint, but because of his or her own experiences and beliefs or biases, finds fault where there is none.

It is up to the writer to sort through it all and find her own truth.

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  1. It’s the gently discerning critics I look for. Sometimes being in a group or in a one-on-one sharing relationship helps because you can tell the roots of the person’s remarks. It’s good to have these categories.

  2. Thank you for defining the category of the Clueless Critic. I run into this a lot and find it impossible to communicate effectively with such a person, who genuinely means well, but who hears “let me explain why I did it this way” as “your idea has no merit and you’re bad and wrong.” I try to maintain open ears and a sense of compassion since their biases generally come from things they are deeply passionate about.

  3. This is so good to read. Until just recently, the critiques I had received were “gently discerning” to the point I didn’t realize there were critiques that could be basically in attack mode. What you have shared has helped me feel better about the conclusions I reached.


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