Critiques are what we need, what will actually help us become better writers, but we can all use the occasional compliment too.

I feel energized today because my boss told me my grant proposal was the best written and best thought out series of experiments to ever come out of his lab! I suspect he’s been taking management classes on how to motivate his employees, but it worked. The slog doesn’t seem so bad today and the sun is shining a little brighter (it also took the sting out of him saying that I need to get more papers published).

Artists (be they writers or painters or whatever) thrive on compliments. Maybe it’s because we’re more in tune with our emotions. I have to critique my husband’s paintings all the time, and when I tell him he’s done something good–better yet if some random person on the street tells him the painting is good–then he’s soaring and far more productive for months afterward. If, however, I have to admit that he didn’t quite pull something off then he’s in the doll drums for at least a week before he can get the motivation to go back and fix it.

Writers have to put up with a lot of criticism too (for our own good), and we wouldn’t get any better without it, but there’s nothing like a small compliment here and there. When one of my lovely followers says something nice in comments, I feel great and want to blog and write more. I think that’s part of the reason my writing confidence has grown–this wonderful community of compassionate people. It’s also why I try to compliment other people whenever I can, spread the love. We know we need criticism, and we expect it when we send something off to test readers or discuss our work in a critique group, but sometimes we just need someone to find one good thing in what we do and say “good job”. With that, we can gather the energy to keep going and do better.

So, I wanted to say to all you struggling writers out there (published, unpublished, thinking about it…) good job! Keep trying, don’t give up, and hold onto what you love, that’s the most important thing.

Has anyone else received a compliment lately? Do you try to find something good to say to people even if you have to criticize some other part of their work? What keeps you going?

Thanks for reading! More posts on books, film, and writing can be found on my website at Lorel Clayton Author.

17 thoughts on “Compliments

  1. Oh yes, it’s critical to point out the good as well as the bad. I was down in the dumps about my writing not too long ago. I emailed one of my crit partners and told her how discouraged I was and asked for her honest opinion on my wip (a full length novel she’d already read). I told her I wasn’t looking for compliments, just the honest truth, but the amazing and complimentary reply I got from her put me right back on track. Thanks, Amy!

  2. I try to do this often with the kids in my class. Some of them come from pretty tough situations and they don’t hear good stuff very often. When I mentioned to one girl how gracefully she moved during a yoga class, she beamed for the rest of the day. It’s nice to see such positive effects 🙂

  3. Positive comments do help in anything we do whether it’s writing or just daily life. Sometimes the best boost of energy can come from a compliment out of the blue. Congratulations on your grant proposal and keep up the writing.

  4. Huge congrats on your grant proposal! I couldn’t agree more. While constructive criticism is part of what makes us better writers, that occasional compliment is what keeps our heads above the water.

  5. Compliments and good feedback can make everything seem better! Congratulations on your grant writing!

    The compliments I get (professionally) seem like they’re tempered with criticism. An editor will praise one thing, then say, “On the other hand…”. Maybe they think we need less encouragement as we go on? But I think I almost need more because I’m getting so many more chances for criticism…online reviewers, print reviewers, Amazon readers, etc.

    Great post!


  6. Well done you!! :o)

    I like getting things pointed out to me where I have gone wrong. Helps me learn.

  7. Susan–It’s easy to get down in the dumps about writing; working in isolation, slumped over a keyboard, with our own inner critic wearing us down, it’s good to have somebody out there in the world appreciate it. I’m glad your friend was able to lift your spirits!

    Jemi–It’s so important for teachers to say nice things from time to time. Kids might act like they couldn’t care less, but really they all want approval. And it does feel good when you can make someone else so happy so easily, doesn’t it?

    Mason–You’re right: we can never get too many compliments! Even a workmate saying they like your new jacket can put a smile on your face.

    Heather–Thanks! Unfortunately, just because my proposal sounds good, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get funding. I have to wait a few months and see. Pretty much like selling a manuscript I imagine…In the mean time bring on those occasional compliments!

    Elizabeth–I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you must get lots of professional criticism (which must be even worse than the ordinary kind). You definitely deserve to enjoy a few compliments! I did mention how much I like “Pretty Is…”? I *love* grouchy grandma’s with lawn gnomes and mechanically-oriented French exchange students 🙂

    Niki–So true that we have to have our mistakes pointed out in order to learn. Can’t go overboard with compliments 🙂 But thanks for the “well done”!

  8. I agree–it’s important to hear what you’re doing right as well as where you can improve. And it’s critical to hold on to the things we’re doing well and remember them when we’re struggling in the places that need the most work. I think it’s the nice things that give us the extra drive to work on fixing the rough spots.

  9. yes, yes, spreading positive energy, no matter how unimportant it may seem to some people, is the key to a better world. A smile, a nice comment, a lovely compliment – those are all nice little weapons for shooting out positive energy all around you.

  10. GREAT TOPIC! And this applies not only to our creative selves, but to us in general. We have to have constructive criticism to grow, and the compliments keep us going, and make us soar!

    There is nothing more rewarding for me than when someone comments on my blog that my posts are succinct, helpful, ‘crystal clear …” It literally does make my day!

    The other point you brought up: Yes, when I am doing either a professional critique of someone’s work, or just pointing out something in general – I do include the positive as well; there is always something positive.

    It’s so much easier for our subconscious minds to accept the negative when the positive is also acknowledged.

  11. Portia–Good point! We have to know what we’re doing right so we don’t change that when we’re changing everything else.

    Dezmond–That’s it, positive energy! Even smiling at strangers on the street and seeing their smile in return can change the whole vibe of your day.

    Crystal–You’re right, hearing the good along with the bad helps with everything we learn, and it’s those compliments that really keep us going. btw your commentors are right: your blog is so helpful! You must keep doing it!

  12. You wrote a compliment on my blog today, and that made me feel good! Compliments are the nectar of writers. I wouldn’t be writing–between the mothering and the doctors’ appointments and the bad economy and the pain–if it weren’t for the compliments and the positive community we have formed online.

    Here’s a compliment: I love the new quotes at the top of your blog! Truly great and inspiring quotes.

    As you know already, you have an award on my blog.
    Southern City Mysteries

  13. Michele–Compliments are the nectar of writers… I like that!

    My husband is always thrilled when people want to look at his art. Since you asked for it, I put a permanent link on the side by my followers list 🙂

  14. Hello there! I agree, a compliment goes a long way, especially when it’s directed at someone’s creative outpouring. Today, I finally, FINALLY, broke through my blockage-fear-creative road block-inducing depression, and I feel GREAT. Your blog entry has further cheered me up, so thank you!!

  15. That’s great Nicole! That blockage-fear etc depression preys on all of us from time to time, and you just have to tell it to get lost. I’m glad you’re feeling better!
    It’s silly, but I have a tiara sitting next to my computer (my “writer’s crown”) and I put it on when I’m feeling insecure and, like James Cameron, tell myself I’m king of the world. Even if I don’t write any better, it makes me laugh, lighten up, and keep writing.

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