“You don’t like this plot point? Let me explain why it’s good…”
“Well it’s not confusing if you remember that obscure hint from 10 chapters ago…”
“Actually, it IS funny, YOU just don’t get the joke!”
“LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”
Ahh, defensiveness. All writers do it. Hearing critique can be tough, and sometimes it’s hard to resist rallying to our story’s side.
Not all defensiveness is the bitter, crossed-arms, yeah-well-YOUR-MOM-needs-more-characterization type you might be imagining. In fact, it’s usually not. Rarely have I seen anyone get up in arms about a critique. Certainly no tables have been flipped, no punches thrown. Most forms of defensiveness are subtler and often unnoticed by the writer until pointed out.
For the most part, I’m good at taking feedback, but I’ve got bad habits that occasionally pop up. Here’s the one I’m guilty of the most: explaining myself. When someone disagrees with a choice of mine, I get this INSATIABLE URGE to explain my reasoning to them! Why oh why do I do this? I guess because I feel that if I can just make them understand my thought process, they’ll see it my way. Or it’s a pride thing. I don’t like looking incompetent when I’m not.
I’m also guilty of explaining not just my choices, but issues of confusion. When I’m at my critique meeting and someone voices befuddlement – “where is this, why’d he do that, what’s going on” – I can’t help wanting to set things straight. Oh, you’re confused, let me answer that! TONS of writers do this; it’s an understandable knee-jerk response. But your explanation doesn’t change the fact that the writing confused them, so the writing still needs to be fixed. So just say, “I’ll make that more clear.”
Another habit of mine is telling people when I disagree with them. I only get like this when a critiquer’s being overly pedantic about something I don’t believe in or isn’t applicable, and I want them to stop being so pushy. But pushy people are pushy for a reason and don’t go down without a fight, so disagreeing just makes them push more. Sigh… I’ve had to learn that the hard way.
Basically, there’s rarely a need for defensiveness. There will be times when people dislike your story, or don’t get it, or dispense advice you think is dumber than a sack a’ rocks. That’s fine! They don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to implement their critique. You can just shrug it off.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth zipped like a kid in time-out. It’s okay to have a conversation! Just make sure it’s truly a discussion, where you remain open and are not just arguing your point. Why bother with critique if you don’t want input? Just shout your story at the bathroom mirror, then.
Actually, I might try that anyway for fun. The acoustics in here are great!