When I was pregnant, I read a lot of books about parenting. I'd settled on the attachment parenting model, and read everything I could get my hands on.
But still, nothing prepared me for the reality. When my daughter was a baby and toddler (she's 8 now, scary how fast those years have flown!), I had so many moments when I felt lost, and had no idea how to help her (or me).
Since I was a mum of the internet age, I posted a lot of questions on forums, and usually recieved a wide variety of answers. There were a couple of people who always posted advice that wasn't what I wanted to hear, often telling me that an attitude change would solve my problem. Every time I read these posts, I would bristle. Then I'd go away, spend some time with my baby, and eventually, I'd realise that they were right. A tiny change, and all my problems went away. (Either that, or my baby changed, cut her tooth, passed her developmental milestone. That happened sometimes too.)
When someone gives us advice, we can either listen and consider their points, or continue to do things they way we were doing. This brings to mind the quote “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Commonly attirbuted to Einstein, but not verified that I can find.) If what you are doing isn't working, try something new.
If you ask someone more knowledgeable (or even just a little removed from the situation) for advice, it's worthwhile considering that advice. That doesn't mean you have to accept it, just that you give it consideration.
How do you manage this, when your first reaction is to dismiss it out of hand, or argue against it (even if just in your head)?
I find time helps. I read the advice, then go away and do something else. I think over bits and pieces of it, sometimes I go back and re-read it, and I imagine what might happen if I make the changes suggested. Sometimes I even try them out, reminding myself that if they don't work any better than my original attempts, I don't have to continue with them.
After a while, I often find that the suggestions, or parts of them, are useful, and I add them to my problem solving arsenal.
These ideas apply to writing and editing just as well as they do to parenting. As I've mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, I recently sent my edited draft of Reckless Rescue off for a professional critique.
I had polished the novel to the best of my ability, but I knew it wasn't perfect. No draft is ever perfect.
But once that e-mail was sent, doubts began to creep in. What if I was the only one who thought the story and characters were any good? What if my friends and family who had read the book where just saying nice things so I didn't get upset? I'm sure you know the thoughts.
When I recieved my critique back, I read it over excitedly. All 5000 words of it! Wow, that was a little overwhelming. As you'd expect, there was some (very nice and comforting) praise, along with many suggestions for improvement. Some bristling happened. Some “I know my story better than someone else” thoughts flitted through my brain. I sat with them, then let them go.
I sat on the critique for about 24 hours, re-reading bits of it, thinking about it, considering all the possibilities. Then I decided to give the new opening suggested a go. I figured it would be fun to write, and would help me flesh out some extra story, even if I didn't use it.
Now, of course, I love it. I'm taking the critiquer's suggestions and making them my own, tweaking them a little as need be. And I know my story is improved, and my overall storytelling ability.
I'm looking forward to the next stage of line editing!
How about you? Do you have any life experiences that have helped you to deal with writing related problems? Or do you have any advice to share on accepting edits?
I understand exactly what you mean, except that I’m still having more trouble than you seem to be with taking constructive criticism. I haven’t had a professional critique done on my “finished” novel (though that sounds amazing!), and I’m waiting for more than one person to finish reading for me. Like you said, there’s always that feeling of “what if she’s just being nice” when someone says “I love it! More! When will the sequel be done?” It’s nice, but I know I need to be prepared for people suggesting changes.
It’s good to know I’m not the only one who gets my back up before I can actually take any advice. 🙂
I think the ability to take contstructive criticism comes with practice. That, and it helps to be careful who you ask as well! Sometimes there’s a reason we don’t take it well.