How do YOU respond to feedback?

I’ve been rewriting a lot this week. In my day job I am an academic, working in education research. I’m only a baby academic, and I’ve been working on getting my first article published. The manuscript I’ve just been revising is based on a conference paper I gave in 2010. I submitted it in late 2011. In May last year I received a response suggesting I make some quite serious revisions and resubmit it (this is a positive outcome in academic circles!). I spent a VERY long time doing that – mostly because my current job is a teaching only post, and I just don’t have time for much else. I went right to the deadline for resubmission, and got it in in November. Last week I had an email suggesting some minor last changes which I completed and sent in last night, something which cheered me up after a very bad day.

But in general reading reviews/ feedback and having to revise or redraft my work makes me feel very very antsy. I hate it. Usually once I’ve got into it, it’s all fine. I just find criticism hard to take in the first place. I know this is a personality flaw, and one of the requirements for a writing career is a hide of rhino-type proportions.

The bad thing about this is that I’m very good at giving criticism. I mark a lot of postgraduate essays, and I’ve commented on a fair few chapters of friends’ PhDs. I’m horrible about grammar, I am nearly always sardonic, sarcastic and downright rude. I do try to give feedback which improves the writing, but I am aware I do not always couch it in the nicest way (although to be fair I am _much_ more tactful with students than friends!). If it’s something I’m marking, if you follow the instructions, it will go from fail to pass, or pass to great. 

The interesting thing about revising the manuscript above, is that a lot of the comments were things I could have seen in other people’s work. I just couldn’t see those flaws in my own. The article is a thousand times better as a result of the comments – those I reworked to address and those I decided not to cave on (which included one where I put in a footnote in classical Greek to avoid caving!). It was an education. And I fully expect the next time I get as far as revise and resubmit, the feedback will be just as educational. And just as painful!


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