Receiving Feedback Gracefully

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Some of you may know that I’ve been waiting for feedback to my manuscript from the Literary Consultancy (the TLC). They delivered the assessment report last week, and as I’d been led to expect, the feedback was not sugar-coated. It was thorough and thoughtful, and the reader earned every penny I paid: I was promised a 3-4 page report; she delivered a 7-page paper. There’s a lot of gold to mine on those pages: guidance and encouragement, as well as ways to improve on my writing.

Exactly what I needed, my mind said… and then shut down.

I’ve been sitting with the discomfort for a few days wondering why is it so difficult to receive feedback even when I actively sought it out and even paid for it. I don’t have definitive answers, but here’s what arises for me:

  • Overwhelm: Oh my God! I thought I finished it, and here we go again. It’ll take me months to action her suggestions. (Don’t get me wrong, of course I knew I’ll be revising again, but…).
  • Resistance: I don’t have the time. I’m too tired. Perhaps, I should drop this manuscript and get on with the next one. I’ll improve on my writing and come back to this one as a pro.
  • Panic: What if I can’t do it? I don’t even know how to incorporate those comments. It’s all well for her to say ‘blah-blah’, but how do I actually do it? I need an editor. Can she be my editor? Frantically Google-ing her name and not finding any contact details. How can anyone function without a website in this world? Sigh…
  • ‘Not good enough’ story: Here comes another proof that my writing is not good enough. Was I delusional to expect that it’s so good that they’ll link me with an agent? I guess I was.
  • Frustration: Three of the chapters I cut out of my manuscript address some of her comments directly! If I didn’t take them out perhaps she would have liked it better?

As I read this list back, I feel like a little kid who is forlorn because someone didn’t like her.  And even though I know my manuscript is not me, my ego struggles to make the distinction. So, as I pause to acknowledge my mixed feelings, I also feel huge gratitude towards the reader. I  know that acting on these comments can take my work from a good book to an excellent one, and it’s worth the effort. I’m so glad I have this guidance, and once my ego recovers, I’ll sit down and make it the best book I possibly can.

What about you, dear reader? Can you receive feedback gracefully? How do you respond to constructive criticism?

68 thoughts on “Receiving Feedback Gracefully

  1. I think your post is very brave. Feedback is so hard to take, 7 pages of it must be almost impossible. Is it possible to break it down? I find a few days of wound licking and then planning out the first, small steps. And like you say, it’s to take it from good to excellent.

    I’ve had a whole audience walk out on a show. That was so painful. I used to feel rejected every time someone left the choir, although I’m a bit better now. I currently think that the last show I did was missing the mark completely and I’m waiting for the teacher I love to put on a workshop that I can attend to restart the whole process again. Of course I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do though. I’m probably using that to avoid the whole thing after realising how much worse I am than the brilliant people.

    Liked by 4 people

    • First of all, thank you so much for reading my post! 🙂 I love hearing from you here. And audience leaving sounds like an awful experience. Well done for bouncing back and leading the BEST choir – you are brilliant! I miss you all.
      Anyway, your advice about breaking it down is spot on. I haven’t done it yet, but in a week or two, I’ll sit down and break it down into manageable (read digestible) portions. And hopefully, I come to sing before too long.xx

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Gulara, I hope you’re starting to bounce back now. You’re so right when you say it’s not you under the microscope, it’s your writing. And I bet even acclaimed authors submit their work for opinions from writing colleagues, and get constructive criticism.
    I always have mixed feelings about receiving criticism, too. There’s always the lazy part of me that thinks – ‘What, more work? Noooooo!’ And sometimes there’s a sting, depending on the comments. But then another part of me gets excited, because deep down I knew there were flaws and ignored them because I just wanted to be ‘done’ (why do we do that?!), but with the opinion of a fellow writer, I realise what definitely needs changing. And I’m always deeply grateful to whoever cared enough to give me gentle but clear, honest feedback.
    Basically it’s a rollercoaster of emotions getting critiqued! No wonder you’re exhausted!

    Liked by 5 people

    • You nail it on the head with that insight about wanting to be ‘done’ 🙂 Indeed, why do we do that?! It’s not like finishing a manuscript is the end of the story. In some ways, it’s just the beginning… of a new stage. Anyway, I’m bouncing back. I had such an immense support in response to this post. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience too. It helped a lot.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Ha this is the hardest part of writing. On my creative writing course we were regularly eviscerated, politely and with sound good sense but punches were still thrown. I learnt to read the comments and then, like the first drsft leave them for a period. You always focus on the negative and need to let the ego settle before you understand the totality. Second do not, that s DO NOT think they understand your book and your style better than you. They will say stuff that is plain wrong because no one knows it like you do. So yes if it sounds right go with it but be robust in challenging their ideas. They have weaknesses, prejudices and biases that they wil foist on you that no one else cares about. Ant points they make have to be super good, awful phrase, to be worthy of you giving them the time to rewrite. Hope that helps and doesn’t confuse!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Geoff, first, thank you for all your wise advice. I loved hearing about your experience, and your reassurance and guidance on what to take on and what to leave out is really helpful. Your comment helped a lot, and I’m getting quite enthusiastic about getting back to the MS (though I’m giving it another week or 10 days for dust to fully settle 🙂 ) So lovely to hear from you. I hope you’ve been enjoying all this glorious weather!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. In my experience, one should always leave the critique in a corner for the dust to settle before dealing with it. All the first feelings of annoyance, disappointment etc fade and one is in a position to decide which bits are helpful and which are not. Also, in my case, I lose the feeling of ‘Oh, no, more work – just when I thought I was done’ and feel galvanized again, and ready to improve the ms. Good luck, Gulara!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Val, my ego is soothed and calmed down after reading so many supportive comments. I loved the image of a full blown attack of marines 😀 It made me smile – the best antidote. Thank you for stopping by, Val.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Feedback is always a hard pill to swallow. It’s difficult not to take it personally, as our writing is so personal, and like you, I feel deflated knowing I have ‘still more work’ to do. As a couple of others have said, the disappointment settles after a couple of days—the problems don’t look so insurmountable, and knowing how to fix some of them might even have come.
    People who are just writing for themselves can write whatever and however they like, but to be published, we must listen to people who know the business and know more than we who are just starting out. Personally, I don’t understand why writers (or anyone!) don’t take advice. From what I’ve seen, it’s those who take feedback on board who end up published. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but they’re generally right. That’s what I’ve found, and it’s why I spent ten months rewriting my novel (which has paid off!).
    I can already tell you’ll hit the drawing board again and do what’s necessary! Good luck! It’s all another step towards the goal. xx

    Liked by 6 people

    • Absolutely, Louise, it’s definitely an important and necessary step on the journey. I’m quite reassured and excited (as well as daunted of course) by the feedback, but it gives me an objective assessment of where I am. There’s an impatient part of me which wants it to be over, and the wiser part who knows that this is a part of the process and good book is like good wine – it needs the time and the right conditions to mature (not sure where the wine analogy came from 🙂 )
      Anyway, many thanks for all your support, Louise. xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • I read my comment again, and I sound so sanctimonious—I’m very sorry. I relate to every feeling you’ve described about getting feedback, don’t worry! I’m glad you’re going to take it on board, and I can already tell your story will be wonderful because you write so beautifully, honestly, and intelligently. x

        Liked by 2 people

      • You don’t sound sanctimonious, Louise! I loved your comment and agree whole-heartedly. I can’t speak for others, but for me professional input is essential to make sure that the book is at its best. I can write (thank you for beautifully, honestly and intelligently 🙂 ) but I’m not a professional writer. I can pour my soul out but there’s more to a crafted story, and the process of revision is central to it.
        And of course we all feel those feelings from time to time to varying degrees. I’m just outing mine. And judging by how many people responded, it must have struck cord and true for others too. Talking about discomfort is healthy and healing. x
        P.S. I’d like to contribute to your new series. I know you are booked up throughout September, so perhaps I could aim to submit something for October or November.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much! It’s one of my favourite photos. I took it on the walk with my husband and was waiting for the suitable post to show off 🙂 Thank you for noticing it. You made my day, Louise, given how much I admire your stunning photography!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Defensive! That’s me, at best, initially. I expect to take it personally because it’s work that’s more from the heart than say, Accounting. I am torn between 2 opinions. I agree that we know ourselves more so we know why we write a certain way what we write. At the same time, there are those people paid to give advice on how to get published so I guess we have to listen.. Even if we believe they don’t know us. After all we want to get published, right? Once I’m done with my manuscript for the nth time, I’ll look for someone to pay to read my work and give me feedback. I’ll be upset. I’ll feel small and that I’m no good. I’ll think about quitting, giving it all up believing that there was nothing to quit from to begin with… Then I’ll eventually get on with it, get back on the horse because it’s what I want and love to do. Unless the passion and the dream have died… Which could be the end of life and the start of simply existing. Sigh! All the very best to you! ❤️ As the Afrikaans folks in South Africa say, “Strongs!” (I think 😊)

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I absolutely dread criticism and feedback. I hate it so much that I don’t like to show my writing to even the most loyal friends. After any adverse comment, I quit writing completely for a while. But then deep down something keeps troubling me… till I try my hand at it again. And this is only for articles, I haven’t even attempted a book yet! You are very brave, Gulara and thank you for constantly showing us the way xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Durba, for reading and your kind words. I feel like quitting sometimes too 🙂 though I don’t think I can. I don’t think feedback to articles is any different to books. You are building a muscle. Keep writing. I love your voice. It brings me so much joy discovering your posts.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I suspect that constructive criticism is difficult for all of us to accept. We can’t help but take it personally on some level. I think that the more emotionally invested we are, the harder it becomes. As writers, we pour so much of ourselves into our work that constructive criticism cuts straight through our hearts. I try to respond to all constructive criticism as gracefully as possible, but it never fails to sting.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. No doubt it is hard. It is hard to not take it all personally. But you should focus on the positive; you have a first draft reviewed and edits suggested. That is something to celebrate; you are that much closer to achieving your dream.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I definitely feel a step closer to my dream. In some ways, the feedback is affirming, even though there’s much to be done before the book is at it’s best. Thank you for reading and your supportive comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Gulara, you’re not alone. Yes, criticism is a hard pill to swallow. When I first joined a writing workshop, many years back, I had the toughest time moving past critiques. It’s a little easier now, but still, my story is my baby, and when the critique first arrives, I have to let it sit there for a while before I read it, prepare myself for it. Do I take the advice? It all depends on who the critic is. I have a handful of writer friends/editors whose opinions mean a lot to me. It’s different, however, with other workshop members. While I’m interested in every reader’s opinion, I don’t always agree, so unless it’s a glaring error they point out, I thank them and move on. On your critique, careful not to change your story too much, make it someone else’s. If you truly value the person’s opinion, sure, but remember, you know the story at its core more than anyone else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Silvia, I appreciate your kind words of encouragement. Yes, it does get easier, and yes, I’m getting more discerning which advice to follow. And thank you for the reminder that at the end of the day it’s my story 🙂 Hope you are keeping well.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ack! I know what you mean. No matter how much I steel myself for constructive criticism, it always stings a bit.

    I like what a previous commenter said, about putting the critique aside for awhile. It helps me disassociate my emotions from what is being said…and most times I’ve really benefitted from it.

    Don’t lose heart, and I know you won’t. In my opinion, the fact the consultant gave you 7 pages instead of 4 shows she really believes in your work. If I didn’t believe in someone’s manuscript, I would cover the basics but wouldn’t go the extra mile.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, that’s exactly what other writer said about the length of the report. It’s all very encouraging and the sting is healing (it’s about time, it’s been 2 weeks!) Distance helps, I’m going to give it another week or 10 days before I go anywhere near it again. Thank you so much for reading and your supportive comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Gulara, I can relate. I was in a critique group and it was difficult to deal with SO many suggestions. There are so many opinions out there, sometime the opinions are helpful and sometimes you have to go with your gut. Some people wanted me to go in a totally different direction than I intended. I think you take the advice you agree with, but be KIND to yourself. You will do GREAT!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Gwynn, you are right, at the end of the day, what sits right and feels good in the gut is the way to go. Critique and conflicting suggestions can be hard, and sometimes people think they know better and can see more clearly from the outside, but the truth is our souls have their own plans for us 🙂 I’m following the inner compass. Thank you for reading and always-always-always for your immense support!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. So, I’ve had a little time to think about all this Gulara, as I promised I would, and I’d say you and I are feeling somewhat similar right now, except that I’m not as brave as you. I got “burned”, if that’s the right word, back when I was writing my second memoir and attended a creative writers’ group who were into critiquing. I’d never attended anything like this before and the person who was first to speak about the chapter I had submitted tore my writing to shreds. Having had a year of success with my first memoir, this was quite a blow to my fragile ego. It took me several weeks to pick myself up off the floor and even look at that chapter again. I tossed around what he and a couple of others had suggested, and did a bit of rewriting, based more on the suggestions than on what he had said. Then I bit the bullet and said “To hell with it! This is my book. my story, my memoir and I will write it so it reflects me and not other writers.” I already had fans who were waiting for part 2 of my story, and when it came out and great reviews followed, I was happy I’d followed my heart. I’m proud of that book because I put ME into my MEmoir, which, incidentally. and as you already know, is the name of my just released book on Memoir writing. As for that writer who tore me apart: his specialty was thriller and crime fiction, and the advice he had given did indeed apply to his genre. He also hated memoirs and never read them. End of story.

    So, summing up, while you are going through this small setback right now, look forward to the day when you write a piece like this one I have just penned on how I’m feeling on the release of my latest book! You think finding out what might be wrong before you publish is tough. I’m terrified of what I’m going to hear now this latest book is published LOL.

    http://vigaboland.com/just-call-chicken/

    Liked by 4 people

    • Viga, I read this first thing this morning before a busy workday, and it kept me going. First, thank you for your courage and willingness to be vulnerable. This sharing is the testament to your strength. Second, I’m so glad you listened to your heart. Yes, people who give feedback can project their own stuff and prejudices on our work, and it can hurt in the moment. That’s why I put the feedback aside in order to be objective when I come back to it and to be able to discern which parts to follow. And airing our terror and discomfort is actually quite healthy (loved your post!). It also helps others because we all feel this from time to time, but don’t talk about it. So, there’s a certain synchronicity in our posts 🙂 Many thanks again for ALL your support. I admire you more than you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Since I’m not familiar with writing a book at all, why do you need to send your book to a reviewer? Someone to overlook grammar and spelling I can understand, but a reviewer? Why is that necessary?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just want it to be the best book it can be. I write (I can pour my soul out on the screen), but that raw material needs shaping and sometimes re-shaping to do justice to the story. It’s not necessary at all to do this. I could have self-published, or kept searching for an agent, but I know it can do with that little nudge that can take it from good book to an excellent one. It’s not even perfectionism. There’s kinda deeper knowing that I have to give this book the best chance it can have…. Or maybe it’s an excuse 🙂 Either way, the comments are in. Soon, I’ll be revising, because there’s a lot of good advice on those 7 pages. All part of this journey. Hope you are keeping well, dear Patty.xxx

      Liked by 4 people

  15. I love this. I have a manuscript that’s been sitting untouched for a week. I love feedback, but sometimes it just seems I’d be better off letting it go gently.

    I relate to the self-doubt that whispers ‘You’re not really good enough. Why did you think you could do this?’

    Nice to know I’m not alone. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for reading and your comment, Tracy. That voice of self-doubt holds us back so much. I’m going to post a healing meditation on Thursday to release some of those self-doubts. I hope you have a chance to take a look. You never know, it may help to quieten that voice. Because deep down you know that you can do this. In fact, you are doing this and I’m so glad! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by. You are not alone.xx

      Liked by 3 people

  16. I’m well acquainted with all the items on your list – put it aside, enjoy the last of the summer sunshine, take great photos of teasels and come back to it when you’re ready. That feedback is a huge step forward.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Pingback: Softening the Blow | Dr Gulara Vincent

  18. Hi Gulara, I thought I’d responded to this post – perhaps I did but on my phone which sometimes causes problems, like having to use a password which at the time I don’t remember. The phone may be smart but re: tech stuff I am not. But I’m glad I’m coming to it now on my computer and reading all the comments and your responses to them. All the comments were wise – it’s your baby, don’t lose your voice amid all the criticisms (which sometimes can be a projection of the reviewer), accept constructive suggestions – and above all, make it the best it can be. And, it will be wonderful. Good luck! Enjoy the break. I find when I give my mss a break and come back to it fresh, I see more in it and at times when there could be less.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your kind words of support, Susan, yes, distance from the MS helps. We are off to Wales for a couple of nights. Hopefully I’ll be back rested and ready 🙂 wishing you a lovely weekend.

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  19. Hi Gulara,
    I’m late getting to your post this week. I see that everything I could have said has already been said, and I couldn’t have said half of it! You’ve received, and are acting upon, some great advice, much of it your own.
    I too feel that, “Do I have to? I’m tired of it. I’ve worked on it so long. I don’t want to do any more. Isn’t it okay as it is? Tell me it’s okay.” But sometimes, when I realise the truth in their words i know I must act upon them. Nothing can stop me. I understand what they are getting at, but I see they haven’t told me enough, and am driven to do more. Others of their comments leave me cold and I see no purpose in making changes, that what they are suggesting does nothing to improve, it is just different. When you come back to your work you will know which comments to respond to and which to leave. Some will float away, others will nag at you until you give them the attention they need.
    Someone else mentioned your beautiful photo. It is gorgeous. I too admired it as I opened the post. Well done. What a fantastic post to draw such wisdom in responses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Norah, you are so kind. I really appreciate all the connection and support this post fostered, and I am grateful for your kind words about the photo 🙂 My take-away from your comment is this “Some will float away, others will nag at you until you give them the attention they need.” It’s true, of 7-pages of report, there are a few things that floating in my mind. I know where to begin…. Many many thanks for all your support.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Can anyone receive feedback gracefully? :p I know I sure can’t. I try, trust me. Oh boy, do I try, but the truth of the matter is, they are kind of judging you. You wrote all of it and you put part of yourself in it, which is why they are judging a piece of you. That’s why it hurts so much. However, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather some be harsh in the stages leading up to publication than have people rant and criticize it after publication because errors weren’t corrected ahead of time. Yes, it’s difficult to stomach the news. Yes, it makes you want to cry, give up, run away, bury it all and never touch it again, but that’s also a way to grow. We have little tantrums to better cope with the work we have to do after. It’s like… giving us the strength to get through it. Goodness knows I’ve had a few of those times and I’m still working on my stories. I know you’re strong, Gulara, and I know you can do this! My best wishes to you! ^.^

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for all your support, Melanie, I’m bouncing back. 🙂 Hope you are keeping well. I’m off with my family for a short holiday, so hopefully when I am back rested, it’ll be easier to get back to. My very best wishes to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

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