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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Willful blindness

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Lynette Sowell

My front porch

There is the old story of the emperor’s new clothes in which a young child stated the obvious that everyone else was ignoring. I won’t repeat the story, because I believe most everyone knows it.

I recently watched a TED talk about something called willful blindness. It can happen gradually and we know something isn’t quite right but we don’t want to bother to look at it, because it either makes us uncomfortable or deep down we just really don’t want to deal with it.

Such is the case whenever we evaluate ourselves, an endeavor that we care deeply about, or anything else, for that matter.

For some writers, one of the hardest things to learn is how to accept a critique. Critiques can be valuable, because a good critique partner will gently point out what that we can improve upon, whether it be grammar, punctuation, misused or overused words, overuse of adverbs and/or weak verbs. The list is endless for a writer.

I’m knee-deep in edits on a book which is due back at the editor in about three weeks. At first, the suggestions seem daunting. But I remind myself that this other person’s eyes have seen things I haven’t caught and her perspective will make my book stronger because she’s very good at what she does. So, I put my “big-girl pants” on and I’m getting the job done.

Unfortunately, some writers are not receptive to any critique whatsoever. They only want to hear the good things, what they’re doing right.

Close friends and family will often tell us what we are doing right, sometimes to a fault!

We see this now as children grow up, and often it seems that you can’t tell a child what they can improve on. We don’t want anyone to feel bad. We don’t want anyone to think whatever they have done is substandard.

Where did we get the idea that making suggestions for improvement is a personal attack, or an overall devaluation of someone’s effort?

True, a lot of critiquing that takes place has a nicer impact depending on the tone with which it’s delivered. That can make a big difference in how a critique is received.

In the past, I’ve received critiques that made me defensive. That initial emotional reaction is natural. We don’t want to hear where we can improve. It’s far easier to coast along. But without striving, that coasting turns into slowing down.

When we receive a critique or bit of advice we don’t like, it helps to take a deep breath and a step back. If the message was delivered harshly, a little lip-biting can be in order. If there’s a grain of truth in the critique, it may take a little sifting to find.

But the prospect of improving is usually better than willful blindness, no matter how comfortable that may feel.


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