My feedback group meets the first Wednesday of every month and this past week was the first time I was offering a sampling of FLASH up to the red pens. It wasn’t my first time contributing, just the first time for this book, but I realized mid-meeting that no matter which piece of writing I’ve submitted, I go through the same five-step emotional process each time.
This is the same sweaty-fingers, please-like-me, is-this-sweater-okay?, I-knew-I-shouldn’t-have-worn-pink, why-did-I-listen-to-my-mom?, you-like-my-sweater?, I-like-yours-too feeling that I remember from the first days of middle school. The differences being I no longer have braces and I no longer have to worry about what I’m wearing. For all my group knows, I could be e-mailing my submissions while wearing pajamas, which I frequently do. The feeling is the same, however, it’s the result of making yourself vulnerable and inviting a layer of honesty that just isn’t found in day to day life.
I’m stupid sometimes, and this is one of those times. Each time I listen to feedback on my pieces, I spend the first two minutes being stubborn and defensive.
I don’t actually show that I’m being stubborn or defensive, I smile prettily and nod and simper, "Oh, absolutely. That’s a great suggestion." But inside I’m seething – doesn’t he know how hard I worked on that scene? Take out the –ly words? Well, if we don’t know that Cole slightly nodded, how are we to feel his hesitation? If Tessa’s not walking unsteadily, how will we know she’s exhausted from her flash? Humph! My inner petulant child stamps her foot.
Luckily, this stage quickly comes and goes, and then I realize I’m being an idiot and start listening and absorbing helpful feedback.
When the protective, defensive layer comes down, I tend to accept all feedback /criticism at once. And try to figure it all out at once. And then my brain goes into hyperdrive. This is when I sink into an it-can’t-be-done, I’m-just-going-to-scrap-this-piece-and-start-again funk.
Fortunately, I was born without the ability to be pessimistic for more than ten minutes, and after those ten minutes are up, I get proactive again.
Step 4 – Puzzling
Sometimes I get over step three rather quickly, but usually progress here requires me to do something. Late night runs are great times to run scenarios in my head. Sitting on my porch with my laptop during summer rainstorms works as well. Calling someone who’s read the book and is willing to listen to me sound out multiple possibilities works great. And sometimes just a night of sleep brings clarity.
But when it comes – this is the most exciting time of all. Seeing the possibilities for the piece, and knowing how much better it can become because of the feedback I’ve gotten? It’s an awesome feeling.
Step 5 – Production
Once things start clicking in step four, watch out. Neither food, nor sleep, nor conversation, nor life will interfere with my re-writing and polishing. (I do, however, make an exceptions for the dixie-cup sized bladders of the puggles – I’d rather to stop to take them out than stop for clean up).
When I get on a role and have a plan in mind, I work with a singular focus until I’m done. Then I run around like sleep and social stimuli deprived maniac and insist that everyone coo over every new comma and every deletion of an –ly word.– Overwhelmedness – Stubborn Protectiveness – Submission.