"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." This is true...mostly. You get a chance to every time someone offers criticism.
I've been thinking about criticism over the past few days. It's inevitable when you’re manuscript is coming back from “crit partners.” Over the years, we’ve developed respect for each other’s writing abilities and a deep trust that every crit comes from love—both for the craft and the person. Still, one woman felt awkward sharing career advice.
Then, last night, I had the opportunity to Skype into a book club that was talking about The Homestead Brides. It was at a church I attended when my kids were little, so it was fun to catch up with several of the ladies. Before discussing what they thought of each novella, though, they said good-bye to me. I suspect that, at least in part, it was so they could share their opinions honestly.
That’s on the professional front. Then there’s the personal one.
Yesterday, I blogged about two, ongoing post happenings. A dear friend pointed out that, while I didn’t do anything wrong (everything I wrote had been released through official channels), it wasn’t wise. And she gave me good reasons why. Things I hadn’t thought about but will from now on. She hesitated to say anything because she wasn’t sure how I would take it.
Three times in the past two days, people who have known me a long time and seen me react to other criticism, weren’t sure how I would take new criticism. Every time is a “first impression.” And every friendship hinged on my response in that moment. Had I shut them down, been flippant, or become defensive, it’s doubtful they’d share honest concerns ever again.
I’m often asked what it takes to become an author. While there are several layers to it, the constant is handling criticism. I think the same is true of becoming a good friend.