Saturday, February 2, 2013

In defense

So, I've been thinking. And evaluating and... you know the drill. New year. New ideas. New hopes.

I haven't been actively writing for several months now. And I want to be. But I feel discouraged when there's only 5 minutes to write. And a baby sits in my lap all day. And the house has to be cleaned. And homework and ... yeah. I think we've covered this before too.

But, here's the thing. I have been reading. A lot. And talking shop with hubby. And also with random people on writing forums. So, I'm keeping my hand in, even if it isn't active.

Something I discovered in a recent conversation. We all get super defensive about our writing. Or, at least, I do. Maybe I'm the only one, but I don't think so. The person I was in the conversation with had asked for honest opinions on a piece of writing. All the feedback said, "You've got some problems and here's where they are." And his response was, "But if you look at the rest of this," or "if you understood where I am going with this," or some other defensive thing.

I found it off-putting. He'd asked for genuine help and because he got defensive, he couldn't see what was going to help him improve.

I thought back to my most recent long term writing spurt. I had sent my first couple of chapters to a reader and got back a "it might work better this way" response. And I was devastated. And attached to what I'd already written. And I couldn't see why they were saying, "You really could do better by changing (this specific thing.)" I thought I knew where the story was going and what I wanted out of it. I responded with a "but, it's this way because of .... and I can't change it because of ....."

Months later, looking back at that, I was defensive and unresponsive to the help I'd asked for. And the truth of the matter was, my reader had it absolutely right. If I were to go back now to that moment, I would try to step back and see why I had gotten that feedback and maybe make the changes then, instead of losing the momentum of the story and feeling derailed (like I do.)

How do you respond to criticism? Have you moved past defensive and derailed?


KaseyQ said...

I always try to be very objective when I receive criticism. I try to remember that the reviewer has a different perspective and might very well be able to see more than me, but I also keep in mind that they are not omnipotent and I remember that I reserve the right to not change my work as well, because it is my name on it, not theirs.

I think a lot of it just boils down to how much confidence you have in your abilities. If you feel confident about your ideas and your skills then others’ opinions remain just that- opinions- rather than perceived judgments on you or your work.

Christine Tyler said...

I think a lot of writers feel they *should* want criticism, but they don't *actually* want it, and that's when they get defensive. It's like asking "do I look fat in this dress?" Don't ask the question if you don't want the answer.

The next step after learning to really want criticism is finding someone whose opinion we actually value and prioritize. That's the hard part, because they're usually that first person who says, "Yes, yes you do look fat in that dress," and you cried, and then you loved them for it.

Christine Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Tyler said...

I should mention that I like to work with the same CPs who know my story inside and out. Then there's no excuse to explain myself or assume they just don't see my vision.