Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Voice to Speak of -- Guest Blogger Crystal

No Voice to Speak of

My kids get frustrated with me, a lot. Understandably. I get frustrated with them, a lot. By the fifth time I’ve asked, “Will you please go get dressed”, or “Will you please pick up your ponies”, I’m ready to uncage that beast we all like to claim lays dormant—the screamer. But today the tables are turned.

Laryngitis. Miserable, silent, agitating laryngitis.

Ironically, I’m hearing significantly more—like my 2 year old asking for a cup of water three times before anyone responds, or my 8 year old desperately pleading with his sister to stop pinching him, or the silly little things my daughter is pretending be. I’m reminded that communication is a two-way process. The more we hear, (or better yet,) the more we listen, the more effective we are in our families, in our writing, and in the world.

On that note, sometimes it’s painful to listen to what people have to say about our guarded and carefully worded treasures. No fury equals the internal typhoon when my husband shrugs casually to the question, “Did you like it—you know, that manuscript I just spent fifteen hours pouring over?”

Let’s be realistic. No one is going to love your writing as much as you do. What’s more, a response like that opens the door to a conversation of growth and insight, if we can abate the vindictive demon long enough to hear what is actually be said. As in every adversity, “all these things give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7)

How then to we draw out the positive in a negative response? What works for me is asking:

What didn’t you like about it, why?
Is it the genre?
Is it the characters?
Is it the plot?
Is it (heaven forbid!!!) the voice?

As we listen, openly and willingly, then apply the responses—where valid, our greatest power is unleashed: the power of growth.
How do you respond to criticism?
Eat more CHEESE!!Books, music and more:


  1. I am so eager to please everyone that I over-respond to criticism. If someone says I should change something I want to jump in and revise it right away. I need to learn to carefully consider the reader's response and decide if they have pointed out something essential or just a matter of taste.

    With my various writer's groups I've learned to do the same thing I do with my own revisions. Jot down the suggestion, then let it sit for a while. If it still seems important a few days or weeks later, when I'm not caught up in the emotions of the moment, then I make the change.

  2. I think it depends on the critic. If it is someone that doesn't write, like my husband, I consider his words, but don't let it bother me too much. If it is someone I know is a great writer and is published, I take it seriously and get to work trying to fix the problem. Now, in the case with my current work in progress, an editor asked me to make changes that would influence the entire series. The first thing I did was scream and cry like a child, resisting the urge to toss my cordless keyboard across the room and never turn on my computer again. But after I calmed a bit, I read the suggestions and comments again and decided they were right. The changes would make a better story. I think if we just stand back and try to see our work through someone else's eyes (the reader, for instance) we can truly learn and grow from the comments of others. Well, except for those that are like my friend who things fantasy is evil. I ignore her completely. LOL

  3. I have finally gotten better at knowing what advice to take and when. I also tell people what kind of help I need. When I'm being my own worst critic I ask for only positive feedback, cuz I'm already seeing the bad, I just need to know if there is anything worth saving! But there are other times when I don't think people are being critical enough and I will ask for specifics.

    BTW I have a talk to write for Sunday, so I won't be posting today. Besides, I put Crystal's guest post up kind of late yesterday. Also, don't forget to go to and vote for your favorite christmas story. You can read the comments to see some examples of friendly critiques, and see which ones you think are the most helpful.

  4. This is a great post. But, I have to admit, I got more out of the mommy part than the writer part, lol. Guess that says where my head is right now, eh? Sometimes, I ask my children or my husband a question, or to do something, but I barely pause to register how my request is taken. I DO need to listen more.

    As for writing ... my usual response to criticism is defensiveness. If it's particularly harsh, or directed at my latest BABY, I'll probably be mad for a day and deny the truth in what my readers have said.

    But by later that day, or at most the next day, I'm willing to sit down and take a look at their comments while setting my ego on the shelf.

    Almost always, their suggestions make my story stronger, and I'm grateful for the input.

    Just not always right away. ;)

  5. Hello Crystal!

    I know how you feel to lose your voice and then you can hear the small pleas around you.

    As far as criticism when it comes to writing...

    Well, I know at first I was very sensitive to it. All I wanted to know was if the plot was likable. I would get mad when my sister would start to proof it. That was when I was still in high school. I guess I wasn't ready to hear what others had to say if I was going to be so defensive about it.

    Now? Well, now I am so ready to move on. Bring it on. I want to hear it. BUT! I would like to know, too, exactly where it is that needs attention so that I can learn to correct it.

    I love critiques that are thorough. (Not a nod and a smile and a few grammer errors pointed out by friends). I want the meat and potatoes of their real thoughts and opinions. Let's get down and dirty editing type of thing. Just enough to get me to rethink my set up.



Related Posts with Thumbnails