Recent events have me thinking about critique, and how we respond to criticism as writers. Today I received my first two responses from journals. Both were “rejection slips.” I wasn’t unprepared…I grew a very thick skin in my journey to get my B.A. in Acting, and accepted the rule of thumb that actors and writers both can expect upwards of thirty rejections for every acceptance, and that ratio is if they’re good. It did sting a bit, though, and I suspect it always does, even when one has worked as a review editor for a journal as I have, aware that twenty potential Yes spots exist in the face of three thousand submissions. We all want to beat the odds, regardless of the reality.
At Spalding, my program director suggests this for giving workshop feedback, and it is advice I have found invaluable in responding to writing others have generously offered to me for feedback outside of my program: compliment sandwich. Always begin by responding to something about the piece you found effective, liked, or connected with personally. Suggestions for change, observations of weaknesses…they come after, and should always be followed by another encouragement. This is not coddling, it is gentility and compassion, but of a genuine spirit, and the world could benefit from a little more of that.