Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.
Lesson #7: Respect your opponent
In this lesson, I talk about how writers can see many of the people involved in publishing as “opponents” — other writers who get deals you only dream about, agents and editors who keep the gates closed to you, critics who fail to grasp your brilliance. And I talk about why it’s important not to dismiss or shortchange these opponents (who can actually be your allies if you change your perspective just a bit.)
It’s easy to fall into a trap of making bad decisions if you disrespect others. If you’re making a choice based on “I’ll show them!” it’s probably not a clearly thought-out strategy that will lead to success. “I’m going to ignore them, what do they know?” is also a non-starter. Sure, sometimes you need to disregard a particular piece of advice or dismiss an obviously wrongheaded critic, but more often than not, and more often than most of us would like, we can learn something if we listen. And that requires respecting that the other person has something of value to contribute, and being open-minded enough to hear it.
If we look at others as potential partners and colleagues rather than as adversaries, we’ll save ourselves a lot of angst–and we’ll derive something useful from the exchange.
One of my personal rules for Life as a Writer is to never ever ever under any conditions respond to feedback at the moment I hear it. Because my response to anything other than a gushing, “OMG! This is WONDERFUL!” is “You’re an idiot who obviously got your job by sleeping with the boss,” and that’s not a particularly useful mindset. I know I’m going to have that reaction, I even plan for having that reaction, and then I remind myself that even if it feels like someone is punching me in the face, that is not actually what they are doing. I take a breath and ask what I can learn.
Sometimes the answer is nothing. But more often than not, it’s something.
What are your tips for turning opponents into allies? Share in the comments!
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Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.