On How I Broke Down When Writing Feedback Hurt (And Won)

The other day, literally within a few hours of me doing the “I am amazing at this” dance after I wrote what I considered a killer short story submission, I got an e-mail.

Seeing this editor’s name in my InBox brought on a mixture of excitement and fear as it usually does. She’s incredibly talented, and I literally sobbed when I recently got the request from her to see pages of Geist.

Excitement soon turned to crushing defeat.

Phrases such as, “Your writing didn’t resonate with me as much as I had hoped,” made me bleed from my eyes.

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It actually hurts me right now to repeat her feedback. I hesitate to share it with you because I feel like it marks me as a failure — talentless, like one of those people on American Idol who humiliate themselves in the audition phase and make the blooper reel for millions to take note of what not to do.

Her words started me down a wild path of self-doubt, echoing in my head over and over.

I even shouted into the Instagram void with one of those long Stories that I’m mildly grateful now I’m unable to reshare.

I shut my computer and walked away.

This moment, after such an amazing high from writing that morning, demanded a lengthy self-flagellation.

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Me: I must suck at this. Time to seriously rethink my place in the world.

Higher self: I’m literally going to beat you with a stick if you don’t stop this level of bullshit.

Me: But, she said she hated it.

Higher self: No, she said she didn’t connect with it.

Me: Yes! Hatehatehate!

Higher self: *Sigh* Did you read the rest of the e-mail?

Me: Fuck off, I’m going to go mainline chocolate and watch Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant fall in love for the hundredth time.

Higher self: Read it now, you pathetic, thin-skinned pansy.

Me: Maybe it’s this abusive relationship with you I need to reconsider.

Higher self: *tapping foot and glaring at me*

Me: I’ll read it, shut up already.

2 minutes later

Me: Oh.

Higher self: She told you how to fix it.

Me: I didn’t read that part.

Higher self: Of course not, you were too busy confirming your own insecurities.

Me: But, what if . . .

Higher self: Re-write the damn chapter. Dig deep. Consider if what she has told you makes sense, if you have known all along that this needed to be fixed all along.

Me: But, I don’t want to re-write it. I’ll have to tweak the whole front of the book.

Higher self: Do you have an agent?

Me: No.

Higher self: Do you have a book contract?

Me: Stop already.

Higher self: When was the last time someone who has the capacity to get you from no agent and no book contract to agented author with a book deal took time to critique your work and show you specifically how to fix it?

Me: . . . I hate you.

Higher self: You love me.

Me: Why did you see this when I didn’t?

Higher self: Got yer back, baby.

downloadThe whole feedback thing sucked, but opening to truth is often not the finest moment in anyone’s life.

I took her recommendations and rewrote the chapter based on her notes, sent it off to a group of trusted friends and mentors to review and offer their honest feedback as well (per her recommendation), and spent the night going over it line-by-line with my brutally honest husband.

2 a.m. rolled around and I dropped into bed, satisfied that one of the most humbling writing days in recent memory may have opened up a massive wound, but refusing to step back into an old place of “to hell with this” meant it became one of the most instructive writing days in recent memory too.

Don’t let the brutal truth of writing feedback stop you from pursuing the craft. Use it to get better.

2 thoughts on “On How I Broke Down When Writing Feedback Hurt (And Won)

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