Sasha here. I hope you’ve all missed me.
Alpha Mom has an old friend from Ohio visiting this week, so she asked me to pump out this blog post about criticism. She says I can use her solitary 1-star review of her Peace Corps memoir (At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, available through your local independent bookstore or this link) as an example. I thought that’d be fun.
Here it is. Can you read it?
Yes, someone named “Amazon Customer” (Yeah, I thought so too. He or she could really use a bit of creativity.) had the audacity to criticize my Alpha Mom. What a weasel!
What’s that? Oh. Alpha Mom says I am not to be critical of the reviewer. “That’s not how dealing with criticism works,” she says. Something about gratuitous ad hominems are the hallmarks of the lazy; I don’t understand. “Facts; only the facts,” she says. OK. I’ll try again.
Fact: Turns out this is the only review this Amazon Customer has posted, something Alpha Mom admits is a bit suspicious. In fact, it’s exactly why she tends to discount this particular review (and probably why she laughs about it often; I’ve heard her).
But she thought that dealing with criticism is an important skill to practice, hence this post. She came up with five steps, which I’ll try to remember.
Somewhere in her
very long life, Alpha Mom learned that in dealing with criticism, one should
(1) Hear it all the way to the end.
I think that means to not interrupt the criticizer with any “yeah, but” replies. Just listen; this is not the time to defend oneself. Of course, with a written review like we’re using here, it’s easy to read it all the way through.
Let’s do that. Here it is again, from the top, the whole thing, all the way through:
I found the main character to be self-centered, demanding and uncaring.
She had no redeeming qualities.
Her community project brought no real awareness of American culture.
Self-centered? Demanding? Uncaring? No redeeming qualities? Surely this reviewer doesn’t know my Alphas. And you’re creaming her community project? How do you know? Were you there?
Wait. There’s Alpha Mom again. Now she’s telling me to
(2) Pay attention to words that seem useful, and any that seem particularly troubling.
None of them seem useful; they all seem hate filled and ignorant. I want to go bite this reviewer; well, growl at him or her at any rate. I want to make her (or him) go away. I don’t like this at all.
Alpha Mom’s butting in again. She says that she wondered if maybe the reviewer hadn’t finished the book. Maybe she’d read only the parts where she (Alpha Mom) was self-centered, demanding, and uncaring. Alpha Mom says that is how people get when they are under a lot of stress.
So, maybe this reader was under stress when she wrote this review? Awww, Alpha Mom likes that I said that. She’s scratching my head now.
Alpha mom says this step is pretty exhausting, so afterward I should
(3) Do something nice for myself.
I like that idea, so I’m going to take a break and go and chase the chickens. Oh, wait. I don’t do that anymore. OK, instead I’ll go over to Gramma’s house and get a cookie.
NOTE here from Alpha Mom while Sasha’s out of the room. Rather than eating a cookie, I might instead have reread the many wonderful reviews that are posted. If the criticism bothered me (which it didn’t since I quickly discounted the source), I would have sat still for a while to see if it reminded me of some earlier criticism I’d gotten. You know: old hurts, … triggers, … new pain. Sorry, gotta run.
Sasha here again. And I feel great. Good cookie, extra scratch. I am loved. It’s important to remember that. Especially when I get all worked up over something like this. Alpha Mom says if I were still upset (and I had opposable thumbs) I could
(4) Write a letter to the reviewer. BUT DON’T MAIL IT.
Geeesh; she didn’t have to yell at me. In the letter I might give the critic credit for pointing out something I hadn’t been aware of, but I’d mostly defend my work. That sounds to me like I’m just speaking up for myself. I wanted to do that at the start, but that wasn’t the right time. I get it now!
Alpha Mom says that you have to decide whose opinion of yourself you are more attached to: yours or the reviewers. Hmmm, that seems like a really important part to remember.
I know which one I’d choose. That’s easy.
And then, according to Alpha Mom, we should all
(5) Go do something creative again.
In my Alpha’s case, she’s still writing; still pumping out these blog posts every week (except when I step in to do them for her), still working on that next memoir she wants to get out, and she’s taking a Tai Chi class.
How about you? How do you deal with criticism? What are you doing creatively these days?