What to Do When You Have an Emotional Response to Receiving Feedback

Aug 28, 2023 | For Beginners, Inspiration, The Business of Publishing

This blog post has been reprinted from an article from Sarah Aronson’s weekly Creativity Journal, with permission. (If you’d like to join Sarah’s mailing list, sign up here.  Thanks, Sarah!

Part of being successful is about asking questions and listening to the answers. –Anne Burrell

This week, inspired by The Whole Novel Retreat community, I wrote a lot! Confidence will do that! I’ve got a couple of projects happening right now. One, I am drafting. I’m waiting for notes on something that is under contract. (So the clock is ticking! And I need to stop checking my email!) AND I am revising after getting some feedback that shook up my story in the best kind of way.Let’s talk about the emotional response to feedback. Because when I first got this feedback–from a person who trusts me and KNOWS I can do the work–I wasn’t exactly seeing the big picture.The truth is, when I got it, I was irritated.
And sad.
And frustrated with myself.
I wanted to be done! I wanted a pat on the back. I thought I went there. Really! I thought I did the work.Sometimes, I forget that revision requires a dose of emotional fortitude.When was the last time you got feedback you were not expecting? Did it leave you confused? Overwhelmed? Or even scared and angry? When was the last time you thought you were close…when the truth was, you still had a whole lot of work to do?When that happened, what did you do?Here’s what I did.
First, I gave myself a very short pity party, (In this case, a peach dessert and a long talk with a trusted friend.)Then, I opened my notebook.I listened to the voice that didn’t want to do it and asked that voice why. I told myself to sit back and draw. I pushed myself to find new answers. Also, a new character. Even though I thought I had done plenty of side writing already, I did some more. And some more.For a while, I couldn’t completely get rid of my impatient voice, the voice that wants success now, and ironically, the voice that often rears its head when I am feeling like an imposter.To get out of it, I reminded myself why I loved this story and what I wanted to say. I realized the things that weren’t working had nothing to do with the core of the story.I could do this.Once I found one glimmer, others followed. I got to work digging and brainstorming and laughing at myself–because joy is key. I returned to the mindset I know is true about writing: when it comes to revision and story, no is never the answer.I did not stop until I found something important. And fun to grapple with.That is my process. It’s what happens when I let go of my ego and let myself feel. It’s what happens when we allow ourselves to find some new answers, when we trust ourselves and each other. And once I did that, the inspiration began to flow. I began to hear better lines. Those darlings were not so precious. I saw what I had been missing. It was all there!That’s when effort turns to momentum. That’s when emotional fortitude yields to discovery.
(And yeah, I’m not close to done. But I am excited. And finding even more. Discovery really is exciting!)Writers: Sometimes, revision and re-imagining feels daunting. Sometimes, it feels like a wall. But once we accept that we don’t know everything yet–but that we will….once we let go of some of the control and see new possibilities, we grow.Time for chocolate!All of us need trusted readers to help us check our egos and deepen our stories. All of us need some community to help us feel safe and secure so we can be brave. All of us need emotional fortitude to make that leap and write our best books.Are you ready to stretch? Reach? Groan? Embrace the power of play?

This week, I read the book, ACCOUNTABLE, by Dashka Slater. It is a MUST READ for anyone interested in community, racism, social media, freedom of speech, and forgiveness. It’s a true story with real consequences. It is a book that will make you think. The writing and structure will astound you.Here is a prompt inspired by the book:
When your characters are in trouble, what coping mechanisms do they employ? Are there places in your story where these mechanisms work? How does that move the story forward? And when do they stop working? When that happens, what happens next?Have a great writing week!Sarah

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