Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How to Handle Criticism by Adrienne Morris

Welcome to the series where you can share posts from the early days of your blogging journey. Today the second post from Adrienne Morris is on the subject of toxic criticism and how to handle it.

How to Handle Criticism by Adrienne Morris.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.Benjamin Franklin

The other day my husband and I were discussing who we were going to hire to put in an asphalt driveway after two different companies sent their men with estimates.

One of the men who came by wasn’t a very good speller but had been laying asphalt for 20 years. The other came with his wife and laptop, fancy postcards and a brand new truck. My husband was undecided since the estimates came in almost the same. He took to his own laptop and started reading local reviews. The bad speller’s company had a perfect 5 star rating. The fancier guy’s company had one bad review.

The wife of fancy guy responded to the bad review. Not good. She passive aggressively pushed the blame for the customer complaints onto the customer. She then described the death of a family member and various other personal issues that may have prevented her in 2014 from returning the disappointed customer’s phone calls. She pointed out that her company was a family run business and one bad review could really hurt its reputation.

At church the other day an artsy acquaintance and I were talking about swapping my book for her music CD. “What if we hate each other’s work?” she asked, jokingly.

Critics have been around since Satan grumbled about his place in heaven, yet pondering the asphalt situation (my husband chose the bad speller) left me thinking that maybe being a critic wasn’t the best way to pursue a happy life. There is a savage thrill in expressing a heavy-handed opinion with a superior toss of the head during a movie about super heroes.

But is it really fun for those people around you?

On the rare occasion when I actually leave the house to go to a movie I ask my husband what the reviews are for the film. He usually responds, “Who cares? I want to make up my own mind.”

My husband takes a bad movie in stride. He’ll admit to a movie being less than he hoped but does not get worked up about it. He also never sits down to write bad reviews. I never do either. I may rant about something for a few days, or complain to my husband about a dumb book that’s really popular, but I have no desire to put pen to paper if in my mind the book or film or asphalt company deserves less than 4 stars.

Some people seem to think they’re doing the world a great service warning a buyer against a book, movie or driveway but sometimes silence is just as appropriate as words. A book with no reviews leaves just enough doubt in a reader’s mind without having the author’s reputation tarnished forever (or until an EMP STRIKE takes down all electronics).

Only once did I check out a reviewer’s other reviews when she left a bizarrely personal and vicious attack/review. It was very eye-opening. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to live in her world of miserable negativity. I’m not sure I believe in karma exactly but wonder if in this age of YELP and Amazon we are not turning into the crows I see on my property who peck baby birds to death for fun


When I used to teach 5th graders, the rule was that the kids had to think of three nice things to say about a fledgling writer’s efforts before the pecking began. My eleven-year-old students very easily learned this skill and the young writers flourished. Adults sometimes seem to think it would take too much time for such civility.

Critical thinking and perceptive critiques certainly have their place and it is almost never worth it to respond to criticism with whining or defensiveness, but I wonder if my mother’s advice, “if you have nothing good to say . . .” isn’t something we all should consider now and again. Maybe we should even consider what our true motives are at times. I can usually tell when I’m just in the mood to be a bitch (so can everyone else).

Once someone close to me said, “Well, it’s not like you’re the best writer who ever lived.”

REALLY? Who knew? The person is someone I know loves me and her words came out wrong (or did they?) but they still annoy me . . . a little.

In the old myths the gods pecked at and destroyed each other in battles of ego, jealousy or stupidity. What kid didn’t love reading about such battles? But none of us are gods. We play them in critique groups or in dark movie theaters and basically just annoy and rob joy from others (again, I do realize that sometimes criticism is good and appropriate).

There may be some people who produce junk on purpose, but most artists and asphalt layers are just trying to do their best in life. Silence is golden in many (most cases).

My singer acquaintance at church and I decided that if we didn’t like each other’s work we’d say nothing. That way we could each pretend that maybe the other person hadn’t yet found time to read or listen to the works that bared our souls.

What about you? What’s your favorite example of toxic criticism? What has been someone’s most helpful criticism in your life?

©Adrienne Morris

Thanks to Adrienne on the subject of criticism and I am sure she would love to read your feedback..

Books in The Tenafly Road Series

The most recent review for Forget Me Not.

At this point, I have kind of grown up with this series and it is interesting how it has somewhat mirrored my life. You always think the next phase is going to provide answers and while it does often do that, it then brings a whole new set of catastrophes to worry about. I love that this series has a subtle humor to it, similar to that of a private joke you have with yourself. I’ve cared for each character almost equally, kind of the the way I would love those in my family. They each provide a different perspective that I can find myself relating to in some way, even if I completely disagree. Definitely my favorite in the series so far.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

and Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Adrienne on Goodreads:

About Adrienne Morris

Adrienne Morris is author of the novel The House on Tenafly Road (selected as an Editors’ Choice Book by The Historical Novel Society and a Notable Indie Book of the Year) and The Tenafly Road Series, the continuing family saga of the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey.

“I write family sagas because I love people. I love their flaws. I love their dreams and deceptions. Historical fiction allows me to reckon with thoughts and feelings I’d rather not address in the here and now. There’s a certain safety and freedom in placing personal revelations one hundred years behind you.”

Musty old libraries, abandoned houses and corsets bring to life the many characters crowding Adrienne’s imagination, but it’s the discovery that people, no matter the century they live in, share the same struggles, hopes and desires (the greatest desire being love) that keeps her up at night writing. Adrienne’s novels are love letters to those of us who feel less than perfect. They are an invitation to love ourselves and others despite our many imperfections.

Adrienne also milks goats, chases chickens and sometimes keeps her dogs off the table.

Connect to Adrienne


If you would like to share some of your festive archive posts for December from when you began blogging, then please send one or two links to


46 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – How to Handle Criticism by Adrienne Morris

  1. Words matter to us, don’t they? Years ago, when I was just beginning to think about publishing my memoir manuscript, I happened to mention to my neighbor my intentions to publish the book. “You can dream,” the words spilled out of her mouth. They felt like a slap. I’ve never forgotten it. Curiously, after the recent self-publication of this very book, the same woman approached me after a yoga class we were in together, and openly poured her heart out. She had, apparently, been deeply moved by my book, which she had purchased through Amazon without any encouragement from me. It’s funny how life works. She may not even remember the words she spoke so hastily to me years ago, perhaps out of her own insecurities. Touched by my own truth, she was able to open her heart to me, and her words became a gift.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a wonderful post, Adrienne. I agree on all counts. I like the “3 good things first” rule. My critique group used that and what a great way to retain the joy in our endeavors while also learning what we could do better. Thanks for sharing another post from the archives, Sally!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ohh, what a great post Adrienne and thank you for sharing Sally. I find that when the criticism stings (it can stick) and if I get defensive it can turn into a competition and that is so out of balance for me. I try not to label or sit in judgment on anyone, but that doesn’t always happen! Silence can indeed be golden…. x

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just spent the morning drinking too much coffee (in my pajamas) furiously fixing a stupid mistake I made in all of my books! LOL. I’m glad the error was pointed out, but that doesn’t mean I stayed perfectly in balance. The pajamas at noon is proof of that. haha.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ohh Adrienne, I work from home and I was in my pj’s till noon as well. Being able to work in peace does help us maintain our balance sometimes. Earlier on this year I entered a big writing competition and got through to the live heats. Picture the scene..standing out in front (the first to be called) reading my piece for a few minutes with my peers and the judging panel as my audience. OK…got through that and then the main judge started to speak. She critiqued my subject choice and did not pause for at least ten minutes in her tirade. I stood mute and frozen. When she had finished I just sat down, knowing that I was sunk. I called a lovely friend and writing mentor when I got home, as she has been a judge in this competition in previous years. I discovered that this lady has never had a single thing published..not even a paper. That added to my fury. Critique my writing, style, delivery or how it feels as a reader by all means, but the subject matter?? (it was internet dating btw) and what caught me was that she was judging, never having stepped into the arena herself…in any way. I allowed this ‘moment’ to stop me writing for months afterwards. It was a saluatory lesson and still stings…oh Jane, let go of that one! x

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, you made me feel better, Jane. The review was awful but she did say she liked the plot of the books and managed to get through three of them. Hehe. Guess I have to keep in mind that at least I have the courage to put myself out there–something I didn’t have when I was younger.

        Thanks for the story. It’s always so great to know we’re not alone.

        Liked by 2 people

    • It does help Jane if it is delivered in such a way that you are not left thinking all those things. Usually it if is a small thing then all the good things should be mentioned first and afterwards. Unfortunately those who like to criticise others tend to get right to it and make a mountain out of a molehill. And yest silence is golden as is a private word rather than a public declaration to make someone look clever. Not happy with those that do that.. hugs xx

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Terrific post, Adrienne. I’ve found those who make a habit of harsh criticism to be unaware of their motives ~ just raw emotion erupting from a very deep unknown place. The flip side is withholding honest feedback due to fear of reprisal or rejection. I guess it’s all down to delivery. If we approach people with an open heart, chances are our words will be received, even if their truth stings a little. And as you say, there are occasions when silence is golden. Much food for thought here ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting discussion, Adrienne. I think that it is useful when people leave reviews. Not ridiculously horrible ones that see no good at all but balanced reviews that point out problems and commend positives. It is useful to know, for example, that someone is very slow to deliver if you are in a rush to get something done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think reviewing has it’s place for sure, but people often forget that there’s another person on the other end of the review especially when the reviewer is sitting in front of a screen. I’ve been helped by (though don’t always enjoy) reviews that point out some flaws, but sometimes people go too far.

      I also think there’s a danger in thinking our opinions must be put online in the moment. One bad review of employee or interaction can destroy a small business and the owners can’t really defend themselves. I know a few people who are so ruthless and so demanding and so willing to trash pizza joints and such that it borders on crazy. In the past they’d just complain and fade away, but now the yelp review lasts forever. So mixed feelings, Robbie.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Great post, Adrienne. I am also of the school of ‘if you have nothing good to say…’. I review many books but if I really dislike a book I won’t review it (and I know that something I don’t like somebody else might love, so I try and explain what the book is like, so others can make their own minds up). Unless I think something is dangerous, I would not leave a negative review.
    Thanks for your comments, and thanks, Sally.

    Liked by 1 person

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