To call putting your creative work in the hands of someone else “difficult” is probably the understatement of the century. When you create something, you put pieces of your heart and soul into that work, which means that, sometimes, giving over your work to another person feels like you’re asking for them to judge you personally.
That, of course, isn’t true! They aren’t judging you at all. In fact, they’re helping to make your work the best it possibly can be. They’re trying to make you and the story you created even better than it already is.
But just because it isn’t true doesn’t make it feel any less true. In the past, no matter how many times I would tell myself, “they’re just talking about the story. Their feedback doesn’t mean you’re stupid or a terrible writer,” it was difficult to feel like they weren’t trashing me personally.
As I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself as a writer and started becoming more and more confident in sharing my work with other people, I’ve had to find ways to combat that feeling. These two tiny tricks have helped me immensely, and I think they’ll help you too!
- The Pre-Send Paper
Before I hit “send” to an editor, my agent, my CP’s, my beta readers, or even my fiancé (who is always the first to read any new work on mine!), I take out a clean sheet of paper and write the date and the title of the book on top. From there, I write a list of everything I’m proud of in the work I’m about to send. This could be anything as big as, “I’m proud to have written a book that tackled X issue,” or as small as, “I think this one particular line is hilarious.” Once I’ve written down everything I can possibly think of, I put that letter in a special place, easily retrievable, so that any time I feel bad about my work, get feedback that stings, or even a one-star review, I can pull that piece of paper out and remember just how excited I am by the book! Getting negative (or even neutral!) comments on your work can cloud your brain and lead to catastrophizing (such as, “this one random internet stranger hated my book, which means I’m a complete failure and no one is ever going to want to read my stories again! I should just give up!”). The easiest way I’ve found to break that catastrophizing cloud is to read my Pre-Send Paper and remember all of the ways in which I rocked that Manuscript!
2. The Feedback Notecard
Next, whenever I get an email labeled with “Feedback,” I grab a notecard and a pen, label that notecard with the book’s name and the date, and then write something to the effect of, “I love this book. I love this story. And no matter what feedback this person gives me, I will remember that we are all just looking for the best way to tell this story that I love. Everything that this email has to say is in service of the story, and I am grateful to this person for taking time out of their lives to try and make my work the best it possibly can be.”
This may seem like a silly thing to actually have to write down, but I find it useful because the act of putting pen to paper and listing out all of the reasons why the feedback is good, why the person who wrote the email is my friend and not my enemy, and why we’re all doing this hard work of revision in the first place forces me to meditate on and internalize those facts.
And then, of course, if that still doesn’t work and I still get my feelings hurt by the feedback, I can go to my Pre-Send Paper and get a little boost!
This is how I help make revisions a little bit easier on myself, but I’m always interested in hearing from other people! How do YOU get through revisions and editorial feedback? What’s your strategy for keeping your skin thick and your attitude one of gratitude and determination? I can’t wait to hear from you all!