Hello you and helloooooo weekend!
So, I’m wondering…how do you take constructive criticism?
Do you see it as an opportunity for growth? Do you feel like it's a personal attack on you? Or does your experience land you somewhere in between?
One of my weaknesses has always been my sensitivity to criticism, whether constructive or not. I'm sure my brothers and parents would agree.
When I was about nine, I sat on the living room floor listening to my dad and older brother read personality characteristics of Aquariuses. I'm an Aquarius. The book mentioned Aquariuses were quirky, sensitive, and well, different..."drumming to their own beat."
My dad and brother laughed (I thought hysterically) and I felt embarrassed, angry. I reacted in a sensitive way - whining and threatening to leave the room - further supporting the description, causing more laughter.
I'm creeping up to 40 years old and I remember the incident clearly. Obviously, I'm a bit sensitive. I've known it's something I've needed to work on. Even my Myers-Briggs personality test results (INFP) points it out; according to The Personality Page, INFPs:
- May be extremely sensitve to any kind of criticism
- May perceive criticism where none was intended
Things are changing for me, though. I'm becoming tougher and better able to accept feedback that I'd normally find difficult to receive.
There are a few things I've done over the last several months to help:
- Joined a writing group in Yangon. We give each other supportive, but constructive, feedback.
- Sought professional critiques from an author and literary agent on a children's picture book manuscript I wrote. You can read how that turned out here.
- Sought feedback on the same manuscript from multiple friends, peers, writers, artists, and family members. (Eek!)
These are situations I've avoided in the past. I was too scared. What if someone didn't like my writing? What if they thought I was crap? Well, I pushed myself through those fears and I've been proud of that. Still, I've known I have more pushing to do.
I chose the words ignite and glow to guide me this year instead of resorting to New Year resolutions. (More here and here.)
Part of igniting means growing a self-confidence that is deeply rooted. Unshakeable. Unmovable. Not so easy for this girl.
Growing that confidence from the bottom up, from the heart out, will bring many benefits, including not being super sensitive to positive, constructive feedback/criticism.
So, it's been interesting that over the last few weeks, I've felt a shift. A change. I've been more bold, more brave putting myself in positions where I could get slapped down fast and hard. I've:
- Submitted my poetry to four literary magazines.
- Given that children's picture book manuscript to a big NY editor at a big publishing house.
- I've asked people for support when I was scared about the second bullet point.
Well, one of the literary magazines got back to me the following day...which was super fast. I was told the poems I submitted weren't what they were "seeking for inclusion" in their magazine. BUT! I was also told they enjoyed my voice and highlighted a particular poem they liked. They wrote, "We very much look forward to reading more from you in the future and encourage you to try us again."
In the past, I would've only focused on the submission "rejection." I would've felt sad and doubted myself.
You know what? I didn't. I felt grateful and happy and proud. I didn't view it as a rejection. I focused only on the fact they liked my poetic voice and that they asked me to submit in the future. That's a compliment. That's encouragement. That's super good news!
I had a similar experience with the NY editor from the big publishing house. She read my manuscript, which is miraculous in and of itself. If you know much about children's lit, you know it's painstakingly difficult - almost impossible - to get an editor to read your manuscript. This editor was generous. Not only did she read my manuscript, she made comments on it, then met with me in person to discuss. (That is a BIG DEAL.)
Her feedback was thoughtful, not rushed. She asked a series of poignant questions to help me get more clear. She didn't slap me down. She didn't say it was great, either. The story wasn't strong enough for her to take it further without further work.
Did that break my heart? NO! Instead, I thought, "I've got some work to do!"
Not once did I feel myself flush or think awful things like, "See, you're a crap writer. You can't do this. Why are you wasting your time?!" The disappearance of that voice was new.
It didn't show its ugly little face. I was able to listen with an open heart. After all, I asked for the feedback. I wanted to know if I was barking up the wrong tree trying to get a picture book published.
Later, she was kind enough to tell me I was a good writer and the invited me to submit the story (re-worked) or other manuscripts/writing to her directly in the future.
That, my friends, is...uh...amazing.
It's also amazing I have not felt sorry for myself or overly sensitive or thought that I am no good. In fact, I've felt the opposite.
In fact, it felt validating. It felt like I was legit. A working writer. (Crazy, I know.) Who knew?!
What about you? What are strategies you use to help take-in constructive criticism?