Friday, October 26, 2012

Crits & Hurt Feelings

Tip of the Day: Leave reviews for books you buy. They don't have to be long, drawn-out affairs - just a simple, "Loved it!" is good enough.

So I had kind of sad thing happen this week. A writer-friend, someone I trust a lot, asked me to do a crit for her. I happily said yes because I love, love, love editing.

It was a very early version of her story. I wanted to help, so I thought I'd be as brutal as possible. As a critique partner, I felt it was my job not to pull any punches. Because if I lie, and stroke her ego, what good would I be doing? The point of a critique is to make things better, not to pat someone on the head.

Things kind of spiraled out of control. In my attempt to be honest, I came off as harsh. In my attempt to apologize, I came off as sarcastic and mean. In my attempt to back off and explain, I came off as self-deprecating and pitiful.

She misunderstood me. I misunderstood her. Let's just say it wasn't pretty and I had a bad week trying desperately to scramble out of the black hole our friendship had suddenly fallen into.

This is one of the big risks we take in this profession. Writing is filled with emotional pitfalls. Our work is dear to us, as precious as a new baby. Expectations are high, but at the same time it's like balancing on a ball while holding a rod with a dish on top. No one wants that dish to crash to the floor and shatter in a million pieces. Not me, the person telling them how to balance; not the person on the ball, trying desperately to make everything perfect.

I had a talk about it with a guy friend, who is also involved in the arts. It was short, done via text, and very matter-of-fact. He told me this happens everywhere. He told me I shouldn't take it so damn personally. That was about it. Guy logic. Gotta love it. It's very grounding.

So, I put on my man pants, wrote her a simple email explaining that I hadn't mean to be mean, or sarcastic, or pitiful, and nothing I wrote was in anger. I also said I valued our friendship.

All of this lead to a great realization about myself - something I'd been suspecting for quite a long time now - I SUCK at developmental editing. Give me a manuscript with typos and missing commas and grammar issues and I am all over that baby. But taking a story and trying to help someone mold it? Not my forte. It's not a reason to be down on myself. It's simply a truth that not only serves me better as a writer, but also helps me realize where my strengths are when my friends ask me for the help I'm always so happy to give.

Want to know what happened? My friend and I made up. I hope we move on happily and put this behind us like two dudes who just beat the shit out of each other, then went out for a beer.

Moral of the story? Be kind. Be honest. Be true. Be willing, always, to say you are sorry - even if you never meant to offend.

Megg, Miss Enchanted ePubber


Kristina Springer said...

As writers gain more experience in this industry the critiques are much less painful. After writing, hmm, 9 or 10 novels now (3 published, 1 on the way) there isn't much anyone can say to me that will hurt my feelings. I LIKE when my critiques are brutally honest. One of my favorite critique partners practically cusses me out in her critiques, lol.

Megg Jensen said...

It wasn't the critique. It was the resulting emails. Confusion ensued. Misunderstandings galore. The point is that we're all capable of screwing up and miscommunicating, especially over something so close to our hearts. :)

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Before I critique, I like to ask how deep a critique the person wants. Of course, they don't always know, themselves, what they really want.

It can be tough to separate the personal from the work--in any field. Some people prefer to trade online crits with writers they don't really know personally, and keep friendships separate from that. I'm not quite there myself.

DeenaML said...

It is a tough balance for sure! Glad you worked it out, Megg. :)