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  • Writer's pictureEllen Gardner

Be pithy

There are always going to be critics, but the hardest one to silence is the one in our heads. For many years, I agonized over every word in a memo or article, dreading the inevitable criticism from my boss. That dread didn’t come out of nowhere.

Very early in my communications career, I had a demon of a boss who had formerly worked as an editor at The Toronto Star. She knew her stuff, but her personal style was more on the ruthless side. She never held back on giving feedback that was cutting and cruel. Her advice to all her reports – regardless of the fact that most of us had no idea what it meant – was to “be pithy”. I think she meant be short and compelling. My writing at the time was anything but, and on a sad day she levelled her sharpest barb – “Are you sure you want to work as a writer?”

I was crushed and realize with the wisdom of time and experience, she was probably frustrated by setting a standard few of us could live up to, and heaven knows what other pressures she was coping with.

Criticism has its place and I wholeheartedly encourage writers to seek out feedback. In a recent small business coaching session, I put my website under the microscope and although there was criticism, it was productive and meaningful.

When you are criticized, my advice is to keep it in perspective, learn from it and never let it paralyze you. Hopefully it’s delivered in the kindest way possible but even when it’s not, there’s always something we can learn. The first step is to get out of your own head and just keep writing.



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