• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Corrections Are Good: How to Take Critique Like a Dancer

Today’s guest is Kim Bullock whose novel-in-progress (working title The Oak Lovers) has already been receiving praise. Historical fiction author Stephanie Cowell says this, “I’ve seldom read a novel with such intense passion. I was unable to put down The Oak Lovers; this is a riveting book.”
The story, based on family member Carl Ahrens (Kim’s great-grandfather) is a compelling tale of art, love, and sacrifice. The artistic gene has been handed down through the generations. Kim’s oldest daughter inherited her grandfather’s artistic skill, and both her daughters are gifted dancers.
My thirteen-year-old daughter is a serious ballet dancer and I find it interesting how ‘corrections’ are interpreted as a positive thing in the dance world. It occurred to me that some of the lessons she has learned could easily be adapted to help writers not feel so overwhelmed when they receive feedback…

Kim, one of WU’s valued Admin Assistants, has an MA in English from Iowa State University, where she received the Pearl Hogrefe Grants-in-Aid for Creative Writing Award and also taught composition for a couple of years. In addition to contributing articles to historical publications in both the United States and Canada, she takes on freelance assignments for Living Magazine, a regional publication, and has been a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Contest for New Writers.
Kim’s website for Carl Ahrens, a major character in her current novel, regularly attracts the attention of collectors and art historians, and she has given several keynote speeches on his life and place in art history. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and two daughters.
Connect with Kim on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
Corrections Are Good: How to Take Critique Like a Dancer
My daughter, who had not known a plié from a tendu until age nine, was understandably terrified when she entered her first class at one of Dallas’ most prestigious classical ballet schools.
She had been the prima dancer during her one year at a beginner studio, performing front and center in the recital. “Work hard and you can go anywhere you want in the dance world,” her teacher had told her privately after ballet lesson number three. I was in the room at the time, and I watched that spark of a dream ignite in her eyes.
I feared her passion for dance might be snuffed out by trying to compete in a room full of girls who had been on tiptoe since toddlerhood, but my sensitive perfectionist emerged from class dry-eyed and grinning. She did chinés turns all the way back to the car, narrowly avoiding trash cans and hedges.
As she twirled, she rattled off an extensive list of things she had done wrong in class that day: everything from her hyper-extended elbows to her weak turnout and lazy fifth position. Her old teacher had apparently failed to correct her bad habits, so she would need to relearn everything
Though she did not seem upset in the least, I had to ask. “Did you receive any roses with all those thorns?”
“She didn’t name my butt. If it sticks out when you plié, she’ll give it an old man name,” my daughter explained. “The girl next to me was told to ‘put Fred away’ three times.”
Her beaming expression warned me that laughter would in some way lessen her tremendous accomplishment. I refrained, but the effort it took ranked somewhere between writing my Master’s thesis and childbirth.
If I were a ‘dance mom’ I’d have understood the reason for her joy that day, but my ballet experience had been limited to one year of reluctantly flitting around a studio pretending to be a butterfly. I knew even at six that elephants possessed more grace.
Corrections are a good thing, just one small rung under a compliment on the desirability ladder.
Photo by Deborah Downes at Take to Heart Images
Watch any ballet class and it’s easy to pick out the teacher’s pets. At lower levels favorites will be told “good job” a time or two, but the instructor will often adjust an arm or raise a leg higher in arabesque. The corrections will be nit-picky tweaks she does not offer to the other students. As a dancer progresses up the ranks, particularly in studios with a dance company attached, the manhandling intensifies. Feet will be forcibly pointed, knees turned out, backs bent, legs raised, rears pushed in. Dancers having an off day can expect to be yelled at like a new recruit at boot camp.
That’s terrible! Do it again! You dance like a drunk zombie! Your arms look like dead chickens!
Have too many off days and something much worse happens. The yelling stops. The teacher will pass by with barely a glance. The student becomes invisible.
Teachers don’t waste time giving corrections to dancers in whom they see no potential.
Read that last sentence again, only substitute the word “teachers” with “editors” and “dancers” with “writers.”
Hits home, doesn’t it? This perception is why it hurts so much when we receive a form rejection or, worse, no response after sending off a manuscript.
What about the opposite extreme, though? How can a writer not become overwhelmed and discouraged if a critique partner or editor sends back what appears to be a dissertation on a manuscript’s faults?
 The next time you receive pages of editorial notes, don’t reach for the tissues or a stiff drink. Don’t renew your insurance license. Instead take a deep breath and repeat the words my ballerina once said to me: “This person must really love the book if they spent so much time with it.”

This is the perfect time to consider feedback with the mindset of a dancer. The next time you receive pages of editorial notes, don’t reach for the tissues or a stiff drink. Don’t renew your insurance license. Instead take a deep breath and repeat the words my ballerina once said to me: “This person must really love the book if they spent so much time with it.”
More Ways to Think Like a Dancer

  • Take “class” from several teachers. They will all focus on different things and give you a well-rounded grasp of technique.
  • Resist any temptation to tell off the teacher. The suggestions that made you the angriest are probably the ones you most need to hear.
  • A teacher who believes in your potential will challenge you to exceed it. If you do, they may push you even more. This is a compliment.
  • Generic praise is rarely helpful.
  • Blunt criticism hurts. Instead of letting it discourage you, use it to feed your determination.

How do you deal with critique, especially if it is extensive? If you danced (or still do), would you add something to this list? Have you ever adapted lessons learned from another form of art to enhance your writing?

"I wrote the rest of The Innocents Abroad in sixty days and I could have added a fortnight's labor with the pen and gotten along without the letters altogether. I was very young in those days, exceedingly young, marvelously young, younger than I am now, younger than I shall ever be again, by hundreds of years. I worked every night from eleven or twelve until broad daylight in the morning, and as I did 200,000 words in the sixty days, the average was more than 3,000 words a day- nothing for Sir Walter Scott, nothing for Louis Stevenson, nothing for plenty of other people, but quite handsome for me. In 1897, when we were living in Tedworth Square, London, and I was writing the book called Following the Equator, my average was 1,800 words a day; here in Florence (1904) my average seems to be 1,400 words per sitting of four or five hours."
Mark Twain

Random picks

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

01
10 hours ago
02
18 hours ago
03
19 hours ago
05
19 hours ago

Fast fact about writing

Well-known writers who have suffered from writer's block include George Gissing, Samuel Coleridge, Ralph Ellison, Joseph Mitchell and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Writers who overcame writer's block and published new work after a hiatus of decades include Harold Brodkey, whose novel The Runaway Soul appeared some 30 years after it was first projected, and Henry Roth, whose first novel, Call It Sleep, was published in 1934; his second, Mercy Of A Rude Stream, did not appear until 1994.