Assume the Critique Position 1

The Kindergarten Rule: snack, nap, recess

The Kindergarten Rule: snack, nap, recess


My novel Seven Days in May will be available in paperback and ebook on March 1. In the meantime, it is in the hands of a delicate and gentle friend who is combing the work for mistakes and confusing text and weird timeline glitches.

Thank goodness for gentle friends who love us, eh?

When she sends the work back to me, I will walk myself through a process before I even open the document. I jump these hoops every time I receive feedback on my work, from anyone whether or not I asked for it. ┬áIf I don’t take these steps, then I’m likely to snap the hand that so delicate redirects me. Most of the time, the people I ask for critique say smart things that will only improve my writing.

Jen’s Don’t Be a Hater Steps to Receiving Feedback:

  1. Remind yourself that you asked for this. Sure, we do get reviews from strangers, but in the case of critiques, most of us have a handful of people we trust with our precious baby words. Chances are high that you wanted to hear how your work was like mana dipped in raw honey, but you’re also open to hearing how chunks of it are hard to swallow. So listen.
  2. Remind yourself that you asked for this from these people. In all likelihood, you chose to ask smart people who know smart things for their advice and opinions. Unless you’re weird and you like hearing from people you don’t really respect, then now is a good time to review why you asked these specific people to tell you good things and bad about your words wrought by blood and carved in flaming gold.
  3. Decide whether now is the right time to read the feedback. I subscribe to the kindergarten rule of behavior modification. I’m of the belief that most every snit or fit or bad mood can be solved by a nap, a snack or a recess. If you need one of these things, do it before reading the critique. Have a cup of tea. Enjoy a cookie. Go for a walk around the block. Tell yourself how amazing you are if you must. (I must.) Don’t open any emails or files until you are ready to receive the words they might contain. Maybe have a cookie ready when you do read it.
  4. Take a deep breath. What’s the worst that can happen? Knowing that not everyone will love you and love your writing (or whatever) is a good thing to know. Knowing this will help you not feel so crummy when a reviewer doesn’t swoon over your work. Remember, too, that even people who don’t get you might have something constructive to say.
  5. Go through all the notes. Do not stop once to text your other friend that so-and-so is a simpleton who can’t possibly grasp the enormity of your genius. Do take mental note of how you respond to certain suggestions; that might come in handy later, when you decide the simpleton isn’t so dumb after all.
  6. Wait. Sit on that critique for a couple hours or a day. Just give it time to sort of sift itself through your ego. Don’t reply to the reviewer until you have thought about the review for at least a day. My mother used to say that we all say things we don’t mean when we’re angry, and anger is a mask for hurt. Save yourself the drama. Trust me. Just wait.
  7. Return to the review, and decide which of the suggestions you will take and which you won’t. You will have perfectly good reasons for not taking certain advice, and likewise you will have good reasons for listening, too. This is why you don’t reply right away. The comment that hurts the most might be the one most worth listening to.
  8. Thank your critiquer. Look. People are busy. They don’t have time to prop up your ego for no reason. If a person takes the time to give you constructive, helpful thoughts to improve your work, take them at their word, and make sure to thank them for their time. Honest, helpful readers or reviewers are necessary. Cultivate that relationship, and be willing to reciprocate.
  9. Have another snack. Or a nap. Or both.