Monday, March 15, 2010
What's Good About Being Insulted?
Okay, so the title is for dramatic effect. Hey, I'm a writer. Sue me. :-)
We writers are often portayed as thin-skinned "artistic types" who can't handle anyone messing around with our "art." Honestly, though, most of the serious writers I know understand that we need to have skin rivaling a rhino's.
True, nobody likes to be told that her hero is rude or that her heroine is inhospitable (uh, both criticisms yours truly got this weekend via beta readers and critiques partners, in the interest of FULL and messy disclosure). I admit that my first reaction is, "Mmmph! Didn't they READ what I wrote?"
However, that's just the first few seconds' reaction. What it really amounts to is projected anger: I'm disgruntled more with MYSELF that they couldn't see the image or the character as I saw it in my head. In other words, what we have here is a failure to communicate.
If you can reframe your thinking, realizing that your frustration is that the reader didn't get the message you were sending, then it's easier to go back and tinker with your work. You realize, "Ah-ha! This is what made my CP or beta reader think my hero was rude!"
Usually, as in real life when someone takes offense, it's one teensy, tiny little thing. Change it, and bam, your character's been totally rehabilitated.
This "what needs fixing" approach lends itself to any sort of criticism, unless the criticism is meant in a less-than-constructive way. No, I'm not perfect at receiving criticism (just ask The Husband. On second thought, DON'T!). But I like to think that, after all these years of understanding how valuable critique partners are, I've learned something in writing that applies itself to Real Life.
And God bless those CPs and Beta Readers! I couldn't get anything done without having them reading over my shoulder!