PCSD (“Post-Critique Stress Disorder” and What to Do About It)

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: May 13, 2011
Comments: 2 Comments



You know you’ve felt it—the tensing up of the fingers as pools of sweat build at your temples, while your eyes stare blankly at the computer screen, moving from there to the many margin notes and cross-outs scrawled all over the freshly-critiqued manuscript you just received back the day before…

There’s no denying it.  You’ve come down with a case of PCSD, otherwise known as Post-Critique Stress Disorder.

But what can you do about it?  Never fear, because the Scrivas are here to help!

It’s very normal to feel bewildered and a little lost (or very, very lost) when you return to your story right after having it critiqued either by your critique group, an editor, agent, or published author at an SCBWI or other writing event, a paid critique person, or even your own editor or agent asking for revisions.  If you don’t happen to feel this way, that’s great!  You’ve bypassed the gauntlet of emotions that can sometimes happen, and you’re free and clear to whip that manuscript into shape.  But for many of us writers, rereading comments after a critique and applying them to our stories can be a daunting task that can sometimes make us feel like this:

  1. I’m a horrible writer and what am I wasting my time for?
  2. I’m not good enough to be among the other writers in my critique group and they probably wish that they could kick me out (or I’m not good enough to be at this writer’s conference and don’t belong here)
  3. I’m never going to make it (if you aren’t published yet)
  4. I’m finished and won’t ever publish again.  My other books were just a fluke. (Or I’ve lost my touch.)
  5. I’ll never be able to change genres, and I should just stick to non-fiction picture books (or whatever genre I’ve published in.)
  6. This story is terrible, and I should just give up.
  7. Oh, and did I say that I’m a horrible writer and what am I wasting my time for?

The list can go on and on, but you get the picture.  There are so many negative things that our “inner critic” can tell us, bringing us down.  Don’t listen to it!   Instead, you can try to overcome Post-Critique Stress Disorder with techniques such as these:

1.  Always think of THE WORK as a separate entity from YOURSELF.  Your manuscript is not you.  When it is being critiqued, don’t ever think of it as YOU being critiqued.  This is very hard for artists to do, but we must release our emotions over our manuscripts so that it can be shaped into the best piece of art it can be.

2.  Listen without speaking as your critique group, or whoever has critiqued your work, discusses your manuscript with you, and take all the comments in without judgment.  Now, hopefully you are having your manuscript critiqued by a professional who knows how to properly critique (bringing up what works and is positive about the piece as well as what could be improved).  If not, then the critique isn’t as meaningful, and you should get another opinion!

3.  Give yourself some “space” between you and your recent critique by waiting a few days before rereading over the comments given to you.  It’s amazing how you end up seeing the manuscript differently when you yourself haven’t read it in a while.

4.  Read your positive comments first (yes, there should ALWAYS be something positive about the piece) to give yourself courage to move on to what needs work.

5.  Write down all of your “inner critic’s” comments (like those negative ones mentioned above) and either burn them in the fireplace, throw them away, or stuff them into a box, never to be opened.  You are getting rid of them literally to free your mind up to the revisions ahead.  You don’t need all of that baggage.

6.  If you’ve had your work critiqued by a group, then when you do look over the critiques, notice where the comments “overlap.”  There is a reason why two or more people felt the same way about something.  This works for both positive comments and things that need improvement. “Overlapping comments” should be considered carefully and could be considered the beginning of a “revision roadmap” for you, helping to lessen the feeling of being “lost” when going back to your work.

7.  Be open to new ideas instead of fighting them.  It doesn’t hurt to try things a different way and then decide the best way for you. Remember, your work is your own, but always be open to new possibilities.  The best critique group (as well as other people critiquing your work) always want what is best for THE WORK, and are not out to hurt it or you.

8.  And finally, when all else fails, CHOCOLATE HELPS!  🙂

Happy revising!

-Nicole Marie Schreiber





Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. this post is quoted by Editing and Boot Camp « Viva Scriva says:

    […] were multiple large problems. I left the meeting shell-shocked (see Nicole’s definition of PCSD). What a mess: where was I to start? But, after a couple of months, I sucked it up and kept on. On […]

  2. […] Nicole posted about PCSD (“post critique stress disorder”).  Her words seemed to resonate with readers.  What […]

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