Friday, January 13, 2012

Thanking my Critics

Tuesday started out in a hectic manner. My oldest son couldn't find his shoe and my oldest daughter woke up eight minutes before she had to leave.  The older kids missed the bus, so I had to run them to school before I drove the younger two in. My youngest daughter couldn't find her watch, and we ended up leaving later than we expected (how everyone got to school on time is beyond me).

But I was still in a pretty good mood because despite the crazy around here, something that I wrote was being syndicated on a pretty big site for Christian leaders. Which, for a little mom blogger like me, was kind of a nice boost. The post had received positive feedback the previous day, so I didn't really think much about it.

Then the comments started rolling in. And despite the positive feedback I had received the previous day, this was almost exclusively negative. I was jealous of Tebow. The piece either missed the point or was pointless. I was trying to bask in his reflected glory. I was judgmental.

'Altar of Venus and Mars 1' photo (c) 2010, Ian Scott - license:, I was just sitting here in my living room absolutely floored.

Why didn't they get it? How could I have written it better? Why didn't they like me?

I focused on a few negative comments and completely lost sight of one of the first questions that we're supposed to ask ourselves when we receive criticism.

Is it true?

I don't think it's wise to simply brush of criticism or disagreement. This is how we become better. Better at our craft. Better at our lives.

But not all criticism is equal. When my husband tells me that what I wrote wasn't very clear, that is worth examining. When my writing friends tell me that my story is muddled, I will go back and re-write. When those close to me tell me that I overuse a phrase or am not writing in my own voice, I'll take that to heart. And it's not just people close to me who offer constructive criticism. I've reexamined some phrases that I use based on responses by folks who read and comment who have no other relationship with me.

Then there is the criticism that is offered as a result of not reading carefully. Or coming to a piece with a bias against it already. Or of just being a generally critical person.

Most of the time I can suss this out pretty well and can be reasonable about criticism I receive. But not on Tuesday.

Because I became the person I was writing about - I made an idol out of my piece.

I got excited about the response it got. I was happy with the hits that it generated. I was proud that two different editors contacted me about running it on their sites.

So when I didn't get the accolades that I thought the piece deserved, I was completely thrown for a loop. I had placed my writing on a pedestal and when others knocked it down, I cried about it. The weight of the criticism was extra heavy because I had already given the piece itself too much weight.

It's hard to judge truth when our perception is already distorted.

So thanks to those who offered criticisms the other day. Not because I think you're right - I still don't. But you did knock over my self-constructed pedestal and helped me gain perspective again. That's a gift that I needed.


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