Twelve months ago, I felt called to write a book to help people navigate the challenges of everyday life. It’s probably not going to be a best-seller – largely because my marketing skills are just short of hopeless. But I am also not writing it to be a best seller. I am writing it in the hope that at least one person may have less suffering in their interactions with others because of some thoughts, ideas and perspectives that I have to share. Anything else is a bonus.
When the very first chunk of edits arrived from my editor a few weeks ago, I freaked out. I hadn’t meant to freak out. In fact, I had spent the time leading up to that moment telling myself and others how my book had got as far as it could go without input from others, and how edits from others felt as though someone else was taking their time to nurture my book as much as I had. Somehow, those words of wisdom were forgotten when I saw my editor’s email in my inbox. I felt sick and couldn’t open it. I freaked out.
After an hour or two of telling myself to calm the farm, remember that my editor was just trying to help my book be great, and open the email, I finally opened the email and the corrected document attached to the email. Then I saw what looked like a wall of corrections, freaked out and closed the document.
After another hour or so of telling myself that corrections didn’t mean I was wrong or that my book was a failure, I read through the suggested edits. They weren’t too bad. Most of them made my manuscript sing.
It was then that I realised: I had written the book from my perspective, with my view on life and my understanding of the ideas I was trying to present. And that was great, up to a point. But what my editor was giving me was the gift of her persepective, her view on life, and her understanding of the ideas I was trying to present. For my readers to gain a benefit from my book, it needs both.
Now, as I review suggested edits for Chapter 5, I find myself enjoying the process. My editor’s suggestions are a gift, offered to help my book grow and develop. And I can choose:
- I can accept her suggestions
- I can decline her suggestions
- I can look for an alternative that suits both of our needs
Rarely do I decline my editor’s suggestions because the very fact that she made a suggestion is enough for me to wonder why she did so and what I could do differently to address her concern. Together, I feel as though we are creating the book I want to create.
This experience of the editing process led me to reflect on feedback in general. What can I take from my experience of being edited that would help me receive feedback constructively in my experience of everyday life?
Often, we make feedback about ourselves, what we know and don’t know, and how good we are at this thing called life. The result is that feedback can leave us feeling as though we didn’t “get it right”, or as though we failed. However, while we might think feedback says a lot about us, it also says a lot about the perspective of the person who is offering the feedback. It tells us how they are seeing the world, which is bound to be different from how we are seeing the world. The other person isn’t sharing where we have failed, they are sharing how they are seeing our actions in the context of the world. This, in turn, is providing us with an opportunity to both see the world differently and choose the actions we would like to take in response to this new perspective. Sometimes, we need new perspectives if we are to create useful interactions with useful outcomes.
So, now I wonder…
- What if we choose to accept that feedback isn’t about our failings, but about expanding our perspective?
- And what if we allow ourselves to choose, without judgement, how we will use this new perspective?
My new book, working title What if Life Came with a User Guide: How to overcome negative self-talk, deal with difficult people and adjust to challenging situations, is currently in production, expected out in early 2023.