It hurts, you know?
It's natural for me to get defensive about my work, which I did last summer with this author who was just trying to help. I didn't yell or anything. But I didn't take her advice very well. Hubby actually had a lot more names for him/her, oddly enough. ha ha! But I ended up dumping the project (for the second time) and starting something new, which was okay, I guess.
More recently, a few weeks ago, I met with another trustworthy reviewer that gave me hard criticism about my writing, and guess what? I took notes. I nodded. I said thank you, and then I quietly cried in the bathroom before I drove home. It hurts. You know? I put so much into this new project, this new draft, and all I she told me was what was NOT working in my writing.
Teaching peer review hasn't helped
I think part of my problem is that I teach how to give appropriate feedback to writing... as an ESL teacher... and as a tutoring center coordinator. I'm a HUGE believer in the writing process. I believe that writing has the right to grow and adapt as you brainstorm throughout the drafting process.
I didn't have a completed discovery draft in either of the cases I shared above. They called it a first draft, but Bill Konigsberg told me a couple years ago that even if you rewrite the first chapter over and over, you don't have a first draft until you have a draft for every chapter in the book. And Marylee MacDonald told me that discovery drafts are those drafts before you get to the end of the book, and they're essential to the process because it's how your characters tell you the story for the first time.
I'm also a believer in pacing feedback. When I give suggestions for improvement to my ESL students (or anyone I tutor), I recognize their goals (assignment deadlines, usually) and decide appropriate suggestions that they can work on now without making them feel overwhelmed.
I sometimes forget that that's not the way it works in the creative writing world, although I think it should. The reviewer I worked with a couple weeks ago treated my discovery draft like a completed manuscript that needed editing, even though I tried to explain my expectations of our session. I wanted to brainstorm, to talk about plot and possible solutions for problems that my characters were facing. (She told me to fix my syntax.)
Tell me what works!
I'm not far into my creative writing certificate, but so far-- I've been taught that it is just as important to show the writer what is working well in the story as well as what might help it improve.
One of my instructors shared this super helpful link with us before we started reviewing each other's work. I use this as a guideline, and I wish all peer reviewers worked like this.
Getting used to "no"
Last summer, when I got slapped in the face, Hubby said, "well, consider this your first rejection letter." I know that it wasn't exactly true, but he was reminding me of Stephen King. He said that he had an entire wall full of rejection letters. It's part of the publishing world, and I don't think things have changed that much since he first started querying.
This last weekend, I attended the WriteOnCon, and for one of the keynotes, they talked about the importance of no. It's part of the writer's life. I probably won't do it justice, but the speaker was basically saying that we get rejection letters before we get an agent or contract. We get poor reviews. Heck, she said that she had a book signing, and only two people bought her book. Rejection, unfortunately, is part of the writer's life. You can't make everyone happy, you know?
Why do we write?
So, if we get slapped in the face and get rejected, why do we do it? I can't speak for everyone, but I don't give up because I love reading. And because it's fun. I like playing with words. I love creating. I love that moment where I'm able to convey some awesome image or feeling to another reader. I believe I have a story to tell, and I'm the only one who can tell it the way I can.
"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down... and bleed."
"Mongkok Street, Hong Kong"