Last Sunday, my Novel In Progress group critiqued the first 25 pages of my novel, distributed three weeks earlier, in our twice-monthly round table forum. I’d heard warnings about the ego-bruising, described as a crucifixion by more than one veteran. I have never witnessed any personal attacks, yet I understood and was prepared to receive the feedback.
On the Wednesday before my big day I had a conversation with an executive from my parent-company. The conversation turned into a confrontation that turned into an angry parting of two stubborn people. It took me over a week to recognize that being right wasn’t important. Being stubborn and lacking political savvy negated all of my rightness. Sure, I still think I was right, but I was also naïve. I was equally naïve when I took steps to rectify the situation; initially, none of those steps included an apology. Thoughts of possible actions and outcomes consumed me. Every hour of every day, every conversation, every thought seemed couched in terms of ramifications for my future.
Sunday afternoon came without angst, relative to the dark clouds threatening my career. I entered the NIP room eager for the respite, a welcome distraction. For the better part of two hours I sat silently receiving the comments, criticisms and observations of my peers, fellow writers sincerely sharing their opinion, helping me improve. I may not agree with their feedback, I don’t have to take what they said to heart, none of it was personal, and much of it was shared with good humor. I was delighted by the experience.
The NIP members are not expecting my work to be perfect; they’re participating in a process that helps others improve. Conversely, unwarranted criticism at work, conflicting direction from executive leaders, blame for things outside of my control and a general absence of constructive feedback leaves me wondering how to improve and succeed in my career.
Now, I’m seeking changes in my work environment. I am working with executive sponsors who understand that I’m not perfect, but are willing to invest in my improvement. I’m better able to receive criticism when offset by healthy feedback. My goal is to create a NIP-equivalent with a team of corporate peers and mentors. It’s all relative.