Sunday, May 8, 2011

Opinions Are Just That

One day, my child came home from school upset that another child had called her a name. After she told me what happened, I told her that just because another person said something doesn’t make it so.

“But she said it.”

“What if I said elephants can fly,” I answered. “Does that make it true?”

Recently, I entered a Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) chapter contest. I won’t say which one but it’s not one I belong to. Of the four critiques, three of them were encouraging and contained constructive criticisms—helpful and professional. One was not. This critique was insulting, demeaning and, in some places, contradictory and rambling. After I read it, I moped about a bit, emailed the Rockville 8, told my husband, and then moped a little more.

Then our family went to the Bahamas. Amidst the beautiful surroundings, the steel drums and the Kahlua coladas, I gained some perspective. I remembered that just because someone said it doesn’t make it true.

Ahhhh...don’t you love when your own advice comes back to you?

In other aspects of my life, I usually see that cruelty can stem from insecurity or having a bad day. But, because writing is so personal, so much a part of you, it’s harder to brush it off.

Three people encouraged me and liked the story. One did not. The one that was insulting was where I focused all of my energy. I realized that this one person’s opinion doesn’t define me. I define myself.

I’ve re-read each judge’s critique, even the unprofessional one. I’ve taken the good points from the nasty critique and ignored the catty and insulting remarks.

I decide which comments I should use and which ones aren’t valid. I decide what I want to do and how I want to do it.

I decide if I’m a writer.

What things inspire you? What have you learned from a harsh review? Do you think it’s healthier to ignore it?


  1. Wonderful words of wisdom, Lisa. You're right. We should not give the power to others to define us. I think we often do this as women.

    I do hate it when my own advice comes back to slap me in the face. Who knew we were such wise women? Until it comes full circle and we need to learn something deeper and peel back the onion yet another layer. Life lessons are not always easy, but they're usually always necessary. Great post.

  2. Thanks, Candy. There is something to be learned from every painful experience, isn't there?

  3. Lisa - kudos to you for gaining perspective in such short order. Just this morning I was rehashing an argument from over 20 years ago. Perspective? Apparently not!

    Back then I swallowed my tongue rather than create a scene to express my differing opinion in a teen peer group. In effect, I ignored the "harsh review" by not responding to it. The fact that it can still get my goat so many years later is a lesson to me in not playing the martyr and allowing my voice to be heard.

    So, no. I don't think it is healthier to ignore it. Doesn't mean I think one has to make a scene (!), but addressing the issue is always better in the long run than letting it fester. You addressed your issue and thereby pulled its teeth. This judge's comments will no longer have the power to bite because you fought back with the truth - you get to decide you are a writer. S/he doesn't. Nicely played.

  4. I woulda burned that sucker! Your way is possibly more mature. :-) But I maintain that that kind of vitriol doesn't deserve any consideration.

  5. Thanks, Keely, for your perspective on this issue. Sound like you learned a lot from your experience and it helped to shape who you are today.

    Yvonne, thanks for your comments. I don't know about it being the more mature way. LOL I I looked at it in doses - small sections at a time. Once I'd taken what I could from it, I decided I was done with it.