Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Your Mindset & Critique

Today CRACKED is released into the world, and it has been quite a journey to get to this point.

As I sit in my leather chair with my smoking jacket and pipe, reflecting upon this manuscript's journey, one key word continues to surface amidst the thick white smoke (probably for some freaking fresh air): critique....

A few years ago I read Mindset by Carol Dweck and with each page I was enlightened. Seriously. Being a writer, I naturally related what I read to my writing experiences, particularly to the area of critique.

Early in my career—pre-agent and book deal days—I used to put my work out there for public critiques, via contests and blog posts. I remember getting all huffy and defensive about some of the snarkier comments.

Mindset really helped me process my critiques. Any writer knows that a good critique is worth its weight in gold. No legitimate writer wants to be gushed over in early drafts. We need critiques. But the key is how critiques are taken by the one being critiqued.

Dweck categorizes human beings into two mindsets:
- Growth Mindset
- Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset person would take critique and realize it wasn't critiquing them...personally. They would immediately try to pull nuggets of wisdom from the critique no matter what tone the critique took - again, because the critique was about the writing—not them. They would look at the critique ideas as new challenges and make decisions on what they wanted to internalize and get to work on. The critique would excite them and possibly even inspire them to dig deeper into their craft.

Dweck says, "Even in a growth mindset failure can be a painful experience, but it doesn't define you. It's a problem to be faced, dealt with and learned from."

In the book, a growth mindsetter and violin prodigy, Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg says, "You have to work the hardest for the things you love most."

Wow, right?

Now the contrary. A fixed mindset person would take critique and immediately dismiss it and get angry and offended—because it would feel like a critique of them, personally. They'd view the critique as a, "...direct measure of their competence and worth." Fixed mindsetters need to constantly prove they are smart and talented. Critique, especially a snarky or harsh one, would make this person feel attacked and worthless and like a failure. They would have the absolute need to respond and prove their brilliance and defend it.

Which mindset are you? How has your mindset shaped your experiences with writing and critique?


  1. You have steered me to a growth mindset. I can't thank you enough, Kate, for your recommendation of this book and your guidance in life. Thank you.

  2. Happy Book Birthday, Kate! What a way to start the new year.

  3. Congrats on the book birthday! Can't wait to read it.

    I'm not quite sure which mindset I am. I will know once I actually start sending out my work for critique. Until very recently I didn't have a proper group of critique partners. But, I do now. And I can't wait to get my work out to them. So, I'll get back to you on that question, some time later ;)

  4. Let's admit it, we all had fixed mindsets at one point. I know I did. But working on a book, and having friends critique it, I've definitely veered more into a growth mindset. I see how every critique can be helpful, and, in the end, make my work better. And it being the best it can be is my ultimate goal, so why get angry at something that'll help me get there?

  5. I'm not sure. I like getting critiques, and try not to take them personally, but it's hard at times. As long as people are respectful with their opinions I can handle it.

  6. Congrats on your book. When I worked my very first job, as a graphic designer, many moons ago, I had a very picky boss. He always said: I really enjoy you as a person but you need to shape up on your designs. Today, twenty years later, I am still a designer (as well as a writer) and an exceptional one at that because I learnt very early on that it is not about me but about my product. This really helped me handle criticism. Well that and another saying: If you call me stupid, it doesn't mean that I am stupid.

  7. Critic is not so easy to recept but that make part of the our path. I'm a writer from Brazil and I read about you in the magazine called Writer's Degest. Congratulations to be strong and so creative. Your blog is so beautiful and very inspiring. I liked it.

    Have a good new year!