On Monday I talked about the three responses to negative feedback (Denial, Defeat, and Disappointment) and how disappointment is the best option but only if you can move past it. So how can you turn that disappointment into motivation that will actually benefit your story?
From Depression to Rejuvenation
I’ve been told that I take criticism well, which initially sounds like a great compliment (and in a way, it is). But when I considered what that really meant and why, I realized it was sort of like being told you’re a very patient person. It just means you can put up with a lot of crap.
The truth is, I take honest feedback to heart. Disappointment sometimes hits hard. Typically after a critique I have to step away for a little while to recover. But during that time I’m absorbing the comments. Even if I’m trying not to think about it, my brain is working on the problem. Once I’ve had a little time, I can come back and face it. And here’s what I’ve found out:
Something miraculous is waiting on the other side of Disappointment.
The best example from my own life was on my first novel. I wrote it like many other first-time writers do, without a plan, a plot, or a story question. It didn’t even have a genre. You can imagine what kind of mess I ended up with. It would be easiest to give up on the thing and move on to the next story.
I was blessed to have some experienced, insightful writers look at it. They didn’t spare my feelings. I got some serious negative feedback (along with some positive comments as well).
After receiving their comments, I realized if my story had a chance of working, it would involve major changes in the story arc, several handfuls of new scenes, and a heck of a lot of rewrites on everything else.
For a week, I was utterly discouraged. I thought about what it would mean to do an overhaul like that—the time and energy it would take. The story was on my mind constantly and I couldn’t let it go.
Finally I had a personal revelation through a bit of internal dialog that went something like this.
The only way my story has any chance, is with a ton of hard work. (groans)
(thoughtful silence) Yes. But…
But if you did invest a ton of hard work, and it was a success, would it be worth it?
I couldn’t help thinking of all that time I’d sacrificed. And time was the least of my investments. Part of my heart lived on in those muddled chapters, beating away while I tried to make sense of my next step as a writer. I couldn’t let it go because it was the story that had to be told, not just some trial-and-error test subject I could toss aside and tell, “Thanks for the experience.” I wasn’t supposed to let this one go.
That little internal “yes” was all it took to turn my mindset from depressed to rejuvenated. Once I’d made up my mind that it was worth it, no matter how much time or energy it might take, I was all in. I took off with the edits, rewrites, and additions. Looking back on it, those changes are like a single contraction when I think about the process of birthing that novel from start to finish. Like having a baby, it was unquestionably worth it—every drop of sweat and every moment of intense labor.
Know that if you overcome disappointment, hope is on the other side.
Is your story worth it, or isn’t it?
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5 thoughts on “Feedback and Where to Stuff It, Part Two”
Thanks so much for posting this! I recently received a few intense critiques and I had to walk away for a few days. At first I felt picked on then I thought well they just don’t get the story. Now I understand the points they were trying to get across. I realize I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me but it’ll be worth it.
It definitely takes me a while to process comments before I can implement them. Taking a step back really helps. I’m glad you got past the frustration and have decided to do the work. I KNOW you’re right. It WILL all be worth it.
Yup! Disappointment and distance…and then we suck it up and delve into the *really* hard work! ; ) Thanks, Becca. I can relate so very well to everything you’re saying. And it’s a good reminder that taking criticism well is also a skill to hone, just like the rest of our writing craft. : )
I agree that taking criticism well is a skill to be honed. Many unseasoned writers respond with denial or defeat. It’s easier to either not face the problem or give up all together. Facing it is the toughest, but it’s the most rewarding.
Oh, and thanks for all your past helpful comments. You’re a factor in me being where I am as a writer. 🙂
Hey, right back at ya. Your feedback is helpful to me every time! Even if we don’t always get to go over all of it due to technical difficulties. ; )