Dr. Seuss’ Advice Raises a Question: Are You Your Best Critic?

In a charming 1957 letter addressed to an aspiring children’s book author and illustrator, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote:

This is a field in which no one can give you pointers but yourself.

To develop an individual style of writing and drawing, always go to yourself for criticism. If you ask advice from too many other people, then you no longer are yourself.

It is certainly important for writers to stay true to who they are. Following the advice of others could result in a disingenuous or formulaic product. There are limits to self-criticism, though. Writers are often blind to their own faults, including the words they use repeatedly or incorrectly, inconsistencies, and weaknesses in the plot that come from a loss of perspective.

Pre-publication criticism, particularly from the most meticulous members of their targeted audience, could help writers discover and address these types of faults, but sometimes it’s hard for writers to listen to it.  The lines between constructive and destructive criticism are not always clear, and criticism can discourage writers from publishing their work.  An abundance of well-substantiated negative criticism would suggest that a manuscript is not quite ready for submission or publication, but not necessarily that it should be abandoned.

In my post on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to Frances Turnbull, an aspiring writer, I noted how important it is to receive pre-publication criticism.  Nevertheless, I am left wondering: did Turnbull ever end up publishing her story?


  1. I agree with your points here. That’s why I have beta readers and editors. I also act as a beta reader, and try to make all my critiscm beneficial and not based on my style over someone else’s. It’s important to realize that sometimes it is a style thing as well.

    1. It’s very important to realize that stylistic differences aren’t necessarily wrong! Those kinds of changes would definitely erase the author’s personality from their work. As a reviewer, I try to keep this in mind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s