On the mat or on the page, change is a hard concept to consider. Recent writing events have reminded me of a scene in my book, about an experience that I once had with a student.
She—an athletic woman who was at least 6’ tall—was in Downward Facing Dog. She had compressed her pose in every conceivable way. It was like seeing Shaquille O’Neil in Danny Devito’s Down Dog. Which sounds kind of weird, but you know what I mean. Now, I know all too well the challenges of being a towering giantess. I’ve struggled most of my life with being “too tall.” But the bottom line is, you’re not going to get any benefit out of squishing yourself into something you’re not.
So I went over to make a gentle adjustment and she tensed and refused. I verbally cued her and she yelled (yes, actually yelled at me—the teacher—in the middle of a class), “I’M NOT CHANGING!!!”
Startled, I stepped back. I considered my options. She’d said it clearly enough: she wasn’t going to change. So I walked away.
This interaction comes back to me now as I consider the challenge of receiving feedback on my manuscript. So far, I’ve shared it with my critique partner, my husband (note to self: do not share future work with domestic partner unless you’re OK with partnership suffering), a friend who’s a producer, and two agents who both requested the full manuscript but ultimately decided to pass. One agency provided feedback because, they said, they could tell I’d put a lot of work into it. The other had a vague, generic response.
My crit partner, husband, and producer friend all had extensive edits and ideas on top-level strategic changes as well.
I considered, weighed, tried on for size, re-wrote, and re-re-wrote around every single one of them. To be clear, I didn’t keep every single one of them…but I did consider and try them.
It isn’t easy to hear feedback. It doesn’t necessarily have to be painful per se, but it’s never going to be super-fun. Why? Because I’m going to guess and say that we all write to the best of our ability. If we thought it could’ve been done better, well, we would’ve done it that way in the first place, then.
However, because none of us is ever going to think of every angle, possibility, or opportunity, feedback from others is a necessary part of growth.
Or at least, that’s my theory. What do you think? How do you handle feedback and the invitation to change?