It's difficult, of course, to be told that your child isn't the most perfect in the world. It's equally difficult to hear that your manuscript could be improved.
As with most difficult things, one tends to go through the five stages of grief with criticism:
Denial - That's not a problem.
Anger - They missed the point.
Bargaining - If I made this small change, would that fix it?
Depression - I can never give them what they want.
Acceptance - Maybe I can if I work at it.
Others have observed the same pattern. What I want to point out is that understanding is usually a part of acceptance. I had a hard time reaching the stage of acceptance with some of the criticism I recently received because I didn't understand. Oh, I understood the words and the concepts behind them, but I didn't understand how to make the suggested changes.
And then, on the third morning, I woke up, reread the letter, and I understood. It felt like a miracle.
Writing is the process of encoding thought with marks on a page. Reading is the process of decoding marks on a page into thoughts. There's plenty of room for error in both processes. Because of that, understanding the thoughts of another and how they apply to your own thoughts is hard work. Fortunately, it's the perfect sort of work for your subconsciousness.
So, here's the punch line: the best way to understand criticism is to study it and then sleep on it, perhaps for several nights. I suggest three nights because, according to School House Rock, three is a magic number.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Deren blogs at The Laws of Making.
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Posted by Casey McCormick on Tuesday, September 28, 2010