How to: React to Seriously Negative Feedback

I received some super negative feedback about my essay shame orbiter and I’m not sure how to take it. It’s funny, I’m always saying how I wish I would be more critiqued in workshops.. well.. I got my wish. Although, when I say I’d like to be more critiqued, I mean I’d like some concrete reasoning and thought behind it, plus a suggestion for “fixing” it.

I feel very annoyed in this context by: I just didn’t like it, its my least favorite thing you’ve written, you’re borrowing the format, it isn’t original, you’re forcing together concepts that don’t belong together [of which I only noticed two out of three], and here’s my three sentence critique when the assignment calls for a page, belch, belch, belch. It was worse, too, because one kid loved it, but the rest were on the fence, so it was pretty one sided-ly “bad”. I feel like defending it, its intelligent, sure, but I don’t agree it’s “trying too hard”.

My professor said the student critiquing me, although she disagreed, has “the voice of an editor” and that I should listen to him. I felt palpably jealous. I want to be an editor. That’s my goal in life. To write and to edit and to be kind. And I know she isn’t by extension saying: and Hannah you are a terrible writer and do not have the “voice of an editor”. But shit, it kind of feels that way. Which, I know is my shame and insecurity talking, not rational adult me, but it hurt my feelings. And I know my perception is tainted by the shame, because I’m pretty sure he didn’t make suggestions, I just don’t think I retained them.

[note: I just got some reaffirming news that I can’t share yet, but am glad about the timing]

I know everyone in the industry jokes about how you should be proud of all your rejections, and your writer’s group should encourage each other about getting rejections.. but boy is it a bummer. I suppose that’s why you’ve got your support system, right? You’re in it together. There’s something really precious about that.

I’m on the fence about whether or not I’d want this other student’s opinion in a writing group. I do want to be challenged, I just also want the person challenging my creative decision-making to have a more developed opinion. “I Iike” or “I dislike” aren’t helpful.

Alright, I have to go ask everyone I know whether or not I suck [I know the answer is no].

I’m concerned how much “positive” and “negative” feedback can sway my perception of reality toward the negative and the hopeless. That’s not real life. Not that it doesn’t exist, just, it’s not all black and white like that. Life’s all gradient and shit.

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6 thoughts on “How to: React to Seriously Negative Feedback

  1. Well, you know I love that piece. I actually think it’s very original (someone in my group used stanzas from various poems, none of which were her own, for her lyric essay – yes, that was actually allowed in one of our prompts, but how is THAT original? That totally defies the definition of originality) and I love how you give real life definitions yet tie them in beautifully with your own “definitions” or rather, experiences and thoughts. I’m surprised you received so much negative feedback, I think it’s a fantastic nonfiction piece. Maybe the group was expecting something closer to your previous memoir-style pieces, but hey, we should all explore our writing, and that was the assignment, was it not?
    The “voice of an editor” comment would have bothered me too, especially if his comments actually didn’t come across as helpful.
    I don’t think many people in that class have been in a workshop before. I know a couple have aside from us, but not sure about the rest. I know in my group there is a bit of disorganization and when one particular person shares his critique, I cringe, because he tends to start out with “I like…” or if he didn’t like it, he REALLY didn’t like it.
    You’re a fabulous writer, and I think your group has some poor taste if they thought that was one of your weaker pieces.

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    • Yeah, I know I should try to take things less personally. Of course some things aren’t for everyone. Oh the stanza’s is interesting.. in my group a kid submitted a fictional story, about a woman during 9/11. He is neither a woman, nor close to being old enough to have been in the story. I thought maybe it was his mom or aunt or something.. nope. Felt very misleading. It was great fiction.. that’s just not what the class is. [I may be more annoyed since mine just got finished being ripped apart]

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  2. I agree, helpful criticism shouldn’t solely revolve around someone’s personal taste, or whether they “liked it” or not. I find it much more helpful and encouraging when the critiquer says a few positive things and maybe presents a possible solution to an issue. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I hope you get more constructive criticism in the future 🙂

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    • Yeah, that’s usually how all my other workshops are structured. I don’t mind being criticism, I just want it to be constructive. In the end it doesn’t matter what our preference is taste wise, we’re supposed to be commenting on what’s working and what isn’t, in relation to what the writer is going for. Thanks for the comment. =]

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