Valuing Criticism

In a recent installment of our Ten Questions series, Jennifer Lunden, author of American Breakdown: Our Ailing Nation, My Body’s Revolt, and the Nineteenth-Century Woman Who Brought Me Back to Life (Harper Wave, 2023), mentions a quote by Jean Cocteau she considers the best writing advice: “Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like—then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.” Write a list of criticisms you have encountered as a writer—including ones you have of yourself. Then, write an essay that looks to the value in those parts of your voice.