I hate to wreck the fantasy for those who believe debut romantic comedy authors spend their days rolling naked in piles of cash while cabana boys bring frozen grapes and fresh feather boas, but I should tell you I have a day job.
It’s a job I adore working part-time as the marketing & communications manager for my city’s tourism bureau, but it’s a day job nonetheless.
When I interviewed for the job a year ago, I took great pains to explain my author career. I figured if they had any reservations about hiring a risqué romance writer for a high-profile PR job, we all needed to figure that out up front.
As it turned out, this blog was one of the things that caught the CEO’s attention, and a post titled My hole got plugged so my jugs aren’t full was the first taste he had of my writing.
So everyone is well aware of my other life.
Shortly after the Chicago Tribune gave an unexpectedly glowing review of my book, I was in a meeting with the marketing director and the CEO. They had a few tweaks to some copy I’d written for a new program, and I jotted notes so I’d know what to change.
Suddenly, the CEO stopped talking. “I feel weird making changes to something written by a critically acclaimed, published author.”
You’re probably not supposed to laugh at your CEO, but I did.
When I stopped laughing, I shook my head. “Every writer at any level needs feedback from other people,” I told him. “And feedback is equally valid whether it’s coming from my editor in New York or my CEO in Oregon or the guy selling soup at the food cart on the corner.”
He probably thought I was kissing up, but it’s true.
And it’s something I think about every time I see writers doing that bizarre little dance over critiques. Can I criticize the work of an author who’s published when I don’t have a book deal yet? Should I join a critique group with authors who have less experience than I do?
Though everyone should make that decision for herself, here’s what I think: A book deal doesn’t make your own critiques more valid, nor does it mean you don’t need input from those without publishing contracts. Subjective, varied opinions are a crucial part of honing any piece of writing.
I work with three critique partners and three beta readers for every book I write. Of the three critique partners, one is multi-published, one has a debut novel coming out next year, and one isn’t published yet. None of my three beta readers is a writer.
But guess what? I value their input equally.
And there’s not a single fiber of my being that feels I’m somehow elevated above the feedback of someone who doesn’t happen to have a published book. On the contrary, the different perspectives and life experiences are precisely what I need from the critique process.How do you feel about accepting writing feedback from people whose backgrounds are different from yours? Do you take criticism differently if it’s coming from an editor, a CEO, or the guy who drives your neighborhood garbage truck?
I’ll be huddled in my office, waiting to hear if the CEO read this post.