K.M. Walton on Taking Punches

K.M. Walton is the author of Cracked, a story about bullying that takes a nuanced, compassionate look at all the victims involved in a bullying case. We loved it over at The Figment Review, and we think you will, too. Below, K.M. offers some advice on something many of us struggle with: taking criticism.

She was also kind enough to offer a writing prompt. Take a crack at the prompt below and tag your story kmwalton. If you’re lucky, K.M. herself might just stop by and leave you a comment or review!

Back in 2008 I had no idea how to take criticism–constructive or otherwise. I felt the need to constantly defend everything and take “the meanies” on. I finally realized that people online didn’t know me, which meant they weren’t criticizing me . . . they were criticizing my writing. BIG difference. Once I understood that crucial difference, I was able to see through even the snarkiest of comments and get something constructive out of them.

Before you think I’m all existential and deep, I must disclose something important: how my mindset changed. I read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Interestingly, Dweck categorizes human beings into two mindsets:
– Growth Mindset
– Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset person takes critique and realizes it isn’t critiquing them . . . personally. They immediately try to pull nuggets of wisdom from the critique despite the tone of the critique–again, because the critique was about the writing. Not them. They would look at the critique feedback as a new challenge and make decisions on what they wanted to internalize and get to work on. The critique may excite them and possibly even inspire them to dig deeper into their craft.

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

I seriously love that line.

A fixed mindset person takes critique and immediately dismisses it, gets angry and offended, because it feels like a critique of them . . . personally. Fixed mindsetters constantly need to prove they are smart and talented. Critique, especially a harsh one, would make this person feel attacked and worthless. They would have the absolute need to respond and prove their brilliance . . . defend it.

I am proud to say—after internalizing the book—I boast a Growth Mindset and continue to keep an open mind, work hard, and let people have their opinions of my writing. I figure everyone is entitled to their opinion. And honestly, as a reader, there many books I haven’t liked. Reading is very subjective, the experience deeply personal. Every reader comes to the text with a different set of life experiences and expectations, which all shape their opinion. Not every reader is going to love every book. It’s a statistical impossibility, and I’m okay with that.

WRITING PROMPT: Someone has a definite Growth Mindset, but a poem they wrote and posted on their blog, about the recent death of their pet, gets publicly criticized on Facebook and/or Twitter. Develop that “Someone” and the situation.

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