Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Accepting Criticism

Confession time again.  I struggle with accepting criticism graciously.  Mind you, I've gotten SO much better at this over time.  I know it's an absolute must for anyone, especially writers.  There's no way to make progress and get better unless you stick your neck out and hear what folks have to say, the good, the bad and the ugly.  But, man, is it hard not to go on the defensive.  My rational brain is so skilled at sifting through and recognizing what's valid and what can be learned from any feedback.  But there's this other part, let's call her four-year-old Cindy, who throws tantrums in my head and screams "I hate you" and other nasty things unfit for public consumption, no matter how valid the criticism is.

I am reminded of this as the first round of feedback from the Critique-my-blog blogfest rolls in.  All of it has been wonderfully helpful, especially since this whole blogging world is so alien to me.  Unfortunately, four-year-old Cindy has been causing me a lot of trouble, pouting in the other room and saying nasty things about blogging, cyberspace and the digital age in general, not to mention my own efforts to get anywhere with my writing.  I'm trying to ignore her until she tires herself out.  I suggest you do the same if she starts any commotion during this post.

Over time, I've managed to tame the little wild thing version of myself.  I ask her to wait in the other room while my calmer, saner self nods at the poor soul critiquing me, dutifully takes notes, and says things like, "Good point" or "Let me fiddle with that."  But four-year-old Cindy doesn't like to stay still for long.  She's always trying to assert herself, no matter how much she promised to behave when she first sat down.

The thing is, I really like the wild thing.  She's got spunk, and, unlike Lou Grant, I love  spunk.  So, I don't want to squash her spirit.  Sometimes, I need that power to keep from crumpling up in a sad little ball of whimpiness.  She only throws fits because she cares passionately about stuff, and that's something I never want to lose.

Maybe I need to approach her the way I do so many of my more challenging students.  Help her get used to this whole criticism thing.  Give her a replacement behavior, a safe place to take a break and manage her big feelings without disrupting the group.  Maybe it's enough just to personify this side of me.  Am I the only one who does this?  Somehow, I doubt it.  Anyone else out there have a name, personality, perhaps even an image for this side of yourself?


  1. I have a very similar side; I call her the "red mist." These days, my best chance of soothing her is to look her in the eyes and say, "You're not calling the shots, dear. Pipe down."

  2. I experience this too, it's a bit more touch and go though. Some days my uncivilized side is more active than others and I guess it depends on what crits I received.

  3. I know what you mean - it can be really painful getting critique. Especially the honest kind. haha. But it's generally worth it! I've even found that harsh, mean critique helps me out in the long run. And at least I can always say, "Well, that person's more of a meanie than I am!" ;)

  4. My upset critiqued self runs away rather than has a loud outright tantrum. She doesn't want to listen to you and your opinion. But she'll listen eventually. When it's far enough in the past that it's no longer so personal.

    Despite this, I'd rather have critique than none at all.

  5. Thanks for the comments, one and all. Sounds like acknowledging that side helps deal with it. Guess it's about building up callouses.


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