Madison Koczo. Mannequins. Grade 11, Age 16. 2011 Gold Medal, Mixed Media.

In this month’s Ask Ned, Ned explains how to handle self-doubt and negative criticism.

Maddie Asked:

I’m 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. Reading and writing have made a tremendous impact on my life, so much that I want to become an author and possibly an editor for a publishing company. Recently my teachers have been complaining about my writing skills. Normally I take criticism very well, but it’s just a little disheartening when you build yourself up just so someone can bring you down. Do you ever feel disheartened or have doubts about your writing skills?

Ned Answered:

Maddie, writing is not like being a lawyer or elevator operator. You will have your ups and downs, creative periods and fallow periods. When it comes to self-doubt, I handle it by solidifying positive feelings in my mind when I have them and then just focusing on inhaling and exhaling during the times when I think I’m worthless. I don’t think you can get around that kind of emotional push and pull as a writer.

When it comes to other people’s criticism, I am lucky because when my first book Teen Angst? Naaah… came out, the following one-star review was first on Amazon: Once you’ve had your work called “inherent filth” it doesn’t really matter if anyone doubts your writing skills. (I think a guy who had a beef with me in high school wrote the review.) Look to your disheartening teachers as a fortunate inoculation.


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Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini is the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, libraries and organizations around the world about writing and mental health. He currently reviews books for the L Magazine and is writing for season 2 of MTV’s Teen Wolf. His work has been translated into seven languages. His next novel, The Other Normals, will be published in fall 2012. E-mail your questions to

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