A Mother’s Love from Both Sides of the Coin

Yes, I realize that I’m technically a day late for Mother’s Day, but shouldn’t we be able to talk about the wonder that is a mother on any day of the year? ^_~ Mothers are, after all, amazing creatures, and as my own little tribute I thought I’d share a few things about both my mother, and about myself as a mother:

Feel the love. <3
Feel the love. ❀

– My mother has worked a very laborious and emotionally-straining job since before I was born. She worked eight hours a day, felt the physical and emotional backlash for the rest of the hours of the day, and still managed to cook supper almost every day and keep the house clean as a whistle. Maybe the meals weren’t always 100% nutritional (mmm….mac and cheese…), and maybe every now and then her half-awake cleaning routine would end up with the phone in the fridge, but really, how many hours a day can you expect a person to work and not bend a little? Jeebus. πŸ™‚

– Because of the aforementioned job, my mother regularly had to work big holidays, like Christmas. Her regular shift was 7 am to 4 pm, and those years that she had to work the holiday she would happily get up a couple of hours earlier so that we could all enjoy opening our presents together. Later in life when I had to start dragging myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning for my own job, that sacrifice in sleep started to seem like a much bigger deal than it had when I was a kid.

– When my first long-term boyfriend broke up with me, I was pretty depressed and spent several days curled up on the couch just watching TV and eating. At some point I mentioned in passing that I wanted to watch the movie Hook. That evening my mom showed up home from the mall with the movie on DVD. It was a simple gesture, but a huge one (and I still have that DVD). πŸ™‚

– My father was always the calm, easier-going one in the family, and my mom was always the firecracker. While my dad was telling me to smile and “turn the other cheek” when kids were picking on me at school, my mom was telling me that sometimes some kids need a good smack to show them who’s boss. She was 100% on my side when I punched a boy who had (albeit accidentally) stabbed me in the hand with a pencil, and was insistent that I stand my ground when some big stuff went down in junior high. She’s always understood that sometimes a little bit of violence has it’s place, and never tried to convince me otherwise in the name of being a “good role model” (i.e. bullshitter).

– My mother and I haven’t always gotten along because we both have strong personalities and short tempers. Once I can even recall what almost turned into a straight-up fist fight. But we’ve always been able to return easily to love and affection afterwards, and really, how can you say you truly love someone without wanting to hit them every now and then? ^_~

As for myself…

– I didn’t find out until after we officially announced that I was pregnant, but apparently a lot of people in my family genuinely never thought I would have kids because they really didn’t think I wanted them at all. I find that hysterical now because, although I’ve never really been a huge fan of other people’s kids, I was never more excited in my life than when I first found out I was pregnant.

– My daughter’s coming-into-the-world was not easy, not in the slightest. I had only about two hours of spaced contractions, followed by almost 30 hours of extremely painful contractions every minute or so. There were drugs that didn’t work, drugs that worked wonderfully, and then drugs that completely negated the drugs that helped. There was the threat of a c-section after I had already been laboring for almost a day and a half. There was almost overwhelming pain due to the fact that my daughter’s head was pressed up against my spine. And the thing is, as cliche as it may sound, it all meant nothing once that little baby was placed on my chest and nuzzled into my skin for the first time.

– I’ve been a mother for over three years now, and there have been good days and bad days. There are days when I could happily snuggle in bed with my daughter and watch cartoons all day, and there are days when I start seriously considering giving her away to a zoo. But the fact of the matter is that out of everything I am – daughter, wife, tradeswoman, writer, blogger – being a mother is definitely the most fulfilling.

Mom: I love you to pieces, and I just hope that someday I’ll be on the other end of that sentence. πŸ™‚

Keep Yourself Out of Internet Mud…or You Might Never Get Clean Again

As previously mentioned, I’ve been taking a bit of time to read some “craft books” on writing, and the first one I’ve been looking at is Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines. The focus of her book is social media and how writers can use it to create a working “author platform”, but she also touches on other subjects such as traditional vs. indie publishing, marketing, and occasionally a little bit of (related) neuroscience. Yeah, you heard me.

One of the side-topics that has come up in what I’ve read so far (enjoying it so much!) is this idea of ruining your platform without even realizing it. In other words, turning your name to mud by accident. In a world where everything can be re-Tweeted half a million times before you blink, it’s easy for one stupid mistake to go viral and effectively ruin your good name for, well, for good. This doesn’t only apply to writers (or the celebrities we so often see spiraling the metaphorical toilet bowl); it applies to everyone. That’s why I wanted to talk about it today, because this is the kind of thing that everyone should know, but which most people never think about.

I’ve spoken before about how anonymity does not truly exist on the internet and how we should watch what we do and say because it can come back to bite us in the ass. In that previous post I was focused on what I called “The Golden Internet Rule”, which is simply “don’t be a jerk on the internet”. This time I’m not talking specifically about being a jerk, but simply about understanding that whatever you choose to talk about on the internet has now become searchable, findable, and quite possibly eternal.

mud
Don’t want to be wearing this for the rest of your days, do you?

I’ll give a personal example, because what better way to show people what you mean than by sharing your own morbid embarrassment?

When I was in university, studying to be a technologist, I had ups and downs. I had chosen my path partially on a whim because of a stressful situation (the course I had originally chosen was cancelled two months before the start of the semester, so I had to pick something else quick or simply not go to school). The result was that I often wondered if I’d chosen the right thing, whether or not I should drop out and choose something else, and was I really suited for this kind of career? I kept pressing forward because change is scary, and eventually I found myself in the fourth and final year of program, having an all-out panic attack. It began to occur to me that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. I didn’t know what kind of jobs I was even qualified for, how I would go about applying for them, where the work would end up taking me, or whether I would even be any good in the field. Sure I’d made pretty great grades in school, but the real world is a lot different from the class world. I didn’t know what kind of work I would be doing, but I was pretty confident it would not be writing short lines of computer code to set tiny LED lights to flash on and off at timed intervals.

One night when I was particularly stressed, I went online to a forum that I frequented in those days. I wrote a long post about my concerns, my worries, my stress level. I ranted about things like “wasting time and money on a degree I don’t even understand” and how I would disappoint my parents if I suddenly up and decided to do something different, and how I was terrified of the idea that I might have to move away from home for a job and “why oh why didn’t I choose a career path with a clearer future?!”

It was a rant born of stress, passion, and an overwhelming desire for someone to wrap their virtual arms around me and say that it was going to be okay. I did get that virtual hug from my virtual companions, but I also made a teeny tiny mistake. Within the confines of that rant, I used my full, real name. It wasn’t a concern because most of the folks on this forum knew my real name anyway, but in this particular post I wrote one line that described what my diploma would look like when I graduated, with my full name in the center of it. I added that bit in to make a point concerning my rant, but I didn’t consider what adding my full name in actually did to that post.

Haven’t figured it out yet?

It made me instantaneouslyΒ  and easily locatable on Google.

For the most part this was a non-issue. I was a nobody that no one cared about. Who would even go looking up my name on Google, and if they did find my post, why would they care? At least that’s what I thought until someone did happen to Google my name and did click on the link that led them to my post. It was my uncle. I can’t recall the reason that he searched my name in the first place, but when he did he happened upon my post, read it, and subsequently wrote me a very long, very concerned email.

I was mortified.

My uncle was just trying to be helpful and calm my concerns, and he was very sweet. That’s not the mortifying part. The mortifying part was that he read my post in the first place. When I wrote that post it was with the intentions that only my internet friends ever see it. I just wanted a little bit of anonymous support from people who I never had to deal with face-to-face. For good or ill, I’ve never been the kind of person who can share their pains and emotions with their closest loved ones, so when one of those close loved ones found my whining, complaining, melodramatic post I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. And while in this case I had the opportunity to go back and change what I’d written (posts on this forum were editable), in another place I may have been stuck with what I’d written forever.

This is what we’re dealing with when we put ourselves out there on the internet, and my example is absolutely nothing compared to what some people have put themselves through. Every one of you reading this right now has seen at least one photo of someone who uploaded their pic on a social network site only to realize later that there was something excruciatingly embarrassing about it. One particular photo that comes to mind is of a teenage girl who took a “selfie” of herself and uploaded it to Facebook before noticing that her vibrator was sitting in plain view in the corner of the pic. As if that’s not mortifying enough, before she noticed it dozens of people had copied it and posted it elsewhere. The picture went viral. Because this girl failed to take a few seconds to actually look at the photo before posting it, she is now an internet meme that will never die.

Whatever you say, whatever you post, whatever you do, it only takes one opportunist to back-up your mistake on his computer before you can backtrack. In this way the internet is forever. Ask anyone who has ever found themselves depicted as a cruel jape on sites like 9gag. It doesn’t matter how much you beg or cry or scream, you can’t erase something from the internet once people have decided to use it at your expense. Even if it is an extreme example and you have grounds for legal action, it only takes one person to store the quote/pic/post away to whip out again at a later date. And the bigger a deal you make out of trying to abolish a bad rep, the bigger a deal people will make out of making sure that it never dies.

This is why we have to be careful, not only when dealing with touchy issues like religion and politics, or when letting our tempers get the best of us online. We also have to be careful with everything we say or do on the internet. Before you say or post or upload, step back and think. Think about how you would feel if your parents (or your children) happened across your post. Think about the repercussions if your employer saw that pic. Think about the veritable shit storm you might inadvertently stir up with your status update.

Basically, just THINK. It’s something we don’t do enough of these days, and with the Internet playing the part of devil’s advocate, one stupid mistake can mean that you name is mud for a very, very long time.

Have you ever said or did something on the internet that came back on you in an embarrassing or painful way? Do you know anyone else who has had to deal with this kind of unintentional reputation ruining? Thoughts and comments?

Things I Know About Kids: How to Get Them to Talk to You

For those of you who don’t follow Internet memes (click the link if you have no idea what a “meme” is), there is one that has been going around for a whole now that has been dubbed “Advice Mallard”. I haven’t the foggiest clue where the original idea came from, but the meme is a picture of a particularly photogenic duck, upon which people write pieces of advice. The advice can range from “duh”-level obviousness to thoughts born of personal experience that are actually pretty helpful. One such example that I came across a while back was this one:

20130528-163947.jpg

In case anyone can’t see the image, it says “If you want your kids to feel like they can tell you anything, don’t overreact when they tell you something.” More easily said than done, perhaps, but still something I strongly believe parents should take to heart.

I can’t think of any personal examples because my parents were fairly approachable, but I can think of several examples where friends or classmates landed themselves in a lot of trouble because they didn’t talk to their family for fear of the reaction.

Let me paint you a picture. Imagine a young girl, 13 or 14. She’s in the cusp of the joys of puberty and decides to ask her mother about sex. It’s an innocent question…for the sake of our story we’ll say that she asks how you know when you’re ready to have sex. The mother could sit down and have a frank, honest conversation with her daughter, but instead she chooses to pitch a fit: “You aren’t ready for sex!” she shouts. “You’re not old enough to have sex! You’re too you to be even thinking about sex and I don’t want to hear another thing about it until you’re married!

Fast forward a bit. It could be a few years, it could only be a few weeks. The girl has a boyfriend, and in the infinite wisdom of the young, they decide to get intimate. The girl knows she should be on some kind of birth control, but she has no idea how to get it, and after the last reaction she got there is no way she’s going to talk to her mother about it. Ultimately she ends up going without because, lets face it…kids never think anything bad is going to happen to them. She ends up pregnant. She can’t hide it for long and her mother finds out. Amidst a slew of angry shouting and accusations, the mother releases this gem: “Why didn’t you ask me to get you on the pill?!

Given a number of different possible original conversations and end results, I’d be willing to put money down that most kids have had to deal with this kind of thing. Perhaps it didn’t end with such a dramatic result, but think back: how many of you avoided discussing something very important with your parents because you were terrified of the reaction you’d get? And how many of you had to later deal with your parents’ completely clueless reaction to why you would feel you couldn’t go to them with your problem? Betcha most people reading this are raising their hand right now.

Humans have a very basic learning pattern that is based on cause and effect:
Flower pretty; flower good.
Lightning scary; lightning bad.

This translates to young children in the form of the discipline we give them. If they do something and we laugh, they’re going to keep doing it. If they do something and we scream and yell and send them to their room, chances are they’re going to think twice about doing it again.

It’s no different when it comes to making your children feel comfortable bringing things to you. If they bring you an issue and you’re calm, understanding, and helpful, they learn that you’re a good person to come to with their problems. If you have a fit, yelling and dictating your authority, they’re going to avoid bringing anything to you at all costs.

Consider this when your kids come to you. If they tell you they’re being bullied at school, don’t storm down their and start raving like a lunatic, embarrassing the hell out of them; talk to them about it and come up with a game plan together. If they tell you that they think they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t preach and berate them for being an idiot; praise them for coming to you and work with them to get through it. And for the love of all that is good, even if you still think of your kid as being a child, if they come to you asking about birth control, get it for them. Work in a calm, honest conversation about sex, sure, but absolutely get them the birth control because here’s the thing… Whether we like it or not, and no matter what we do to try and stop them from making stupid mistakes, our kids are ultimately going to end up doing whatever they damn well please. Knowing that, does it make more sense to try (and fail) to force them to make the decisions you want them to make, or to openly and supportively give them the help and information they need to make smart decisions on their own?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t go to your parents with something important? What made you feel that way? Did it end up causing problems down the road? Please share! I’d love to hear from you!

Things I Know About Kids – Germs

It’s pretty much a given that when a new parent is expecting their first child, an endless wave of advice will follow. Sometimes it can be annoying, and sometimes the “advice” makes you wonder how the giver’s children ever survived to adulthood. But for the most part this tradition of passing down the knowledge of how to rear our young is a good thing, especially in those first few months when we really have no idea what we’re doing. Expecting parents will read books, take classes, watch documentaries, research on the internet, ask their doctor a million questions, and still, in the end, everything is unexpected. Therefore it’s great to have people around you to pass information down, even if not all of it turns out to be helpful.

My daughter is almost two and a half now, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things. Though what I have to say won’t necessarily be helpful to everyone, I thought I’d share because it will be helpful to someone.

For my first installment, I thought I’d talk about germs.

This is a touchy subject for some, I know, especially those who are squeamish or have serious issues with germs, but here’s what I know: germs will not kill your child. Seems logical enough, right? And yet we have a veritable epidemic of children being scoured multiple times a day, disinfected at regular intervals, and denied some of life’s little joys because they might get a bit of dirt on them.

This might be hard for some people to believe, but Google it, I dare you. Some germs are good for you. In fact, we have bacteria all over our bodies at all times that are actually essential to our health. Dirt – the good old fashioned kind that your grass and flowers grow in – is actually filled with tons of good bacteria as well. It’s been studied and shown that kids who play in the dirt are healthier because they get more access to these good “germs”. And this last one is going to be a real shocker: guess how your body learns how to fight sickness? That’s right. Germs. Your body learns how to fight germs by being exposed to them. It’s no different from training your mind. If you do a little bit of math every year up until you’re a teenager you’re going to understand it a hell of a lot better than if you were kept away from math until you were a teenager and then had it all thrown at you at once. The immune system is the same way. It can’t learn how to deal with germs it’s never seen.

I’ve seen it dozens of times: mothers chase their children around with wet-naps, bathe them twice a day, and won’t let them touch their toys until they’ve been disinfected with every kind of chemical out there, and then they can’t figure out why their kid seems to get every single cold that goes around. On the flip side of things, my husband and I are very lenient on this front with our daughter and she is rarely ever sick. She’s only had one full-on cold that I can recall (which we all had…it was a rough one), but other than that even when she seems to feel a little under the weather she’s better within a day. The kid is extremely resilient, and yes, I believe it’s because we let her play in the dirt, we can handle her going a day without having a bath, and we clean her toys only when they are genuinely filthy. She gets exposure to things that build up her immune system, and so far it seems to be working quite well.

So go ahead, for goodness sakes…plop your kid in the front yard and let them eat some grass. Unless you’ve pumped it full of fertilizers and weed-killers I promise it won’t hurt them. It might even help them.

Tea-riffic…(Haha, I’m So Clever)

We all have our weaknesses, our little addictions. About a year and a half ago, while doing some shopping in Halifax with my inlaws, I discovered one of mine. I had noticed this store before, but never bothered to go inside. This time I ventured in and promptly stared in confusion at the giant wall of shiny, silver canisters plastered with labels of black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, and purple. I was a little flabbergasted, I admit, but the staff were almost unbelievably helpful, and after examining a couple of the canisters and feeling more than a little silly while sniffing at them, I left the store with my first packet of David’s Tea.

Those who follow my Twitter feed know that the day I just described resulted in a bit of an addiction. A lack of the stores near where I live keeps me from spending my life savings, but a location in the Toronto airport has allowed me to pick up a pack here, a pack there whenever I’m travelling to and from work, and I managed to bully my husband into picking me up a couple of containers for Christmas this year. My addiction has been well-supplied.

As I have quite a wealth of experience with the flavors of David’s Tea at this point, I thought it was about time I share some information on what I’ve tried, what I love, and what I suggest.

(And now seems like a good time to mention that I am in no way affiliated with David’s Tea, nor are they paying me in any manner. These are just the opinions of a very satisfied customer!)

Customer Service:
This may seem like a funny thing to start with, but I really felt the need to share my level of satisfaction with the customer service at David’s Tea. I’ve only visited three different locations, but I’ve dealt with approximately ten different employees, plus a customer service rep from their website, and I’ve thus far had nothing but good experiences. I’m sure that somewhere, at some David’s Tea location, there is probably a disgrunted brat of an employee who huffs their days away, but I’ve not come across one myself. Every employee I’ve dealt with has been extremely cheery, helpful, and friendly. They’ve helped me (and my husband) pick out teas, expressed their opinions and preferences, asked about my own preferences and made suggestions based on those, encouraged me to examine and sniff the teas, offered free samples, and in general just treated me as though I was a friend. Two employees in particular (both of whom work at the Toronto Pearson Airport location) happily take the time to ask me about my day and my travel plans while scooping up my tea. It’s just very calming and refreshing to have a happy face smiling at me and treating me well while I’m picking out my purchases. I’ve dealt with enough rude, ignorant cashiers and customer service reps to be able to really appreciate the nice ones, so keep it up DT employees!

Accessories:
It may seem a little silly, but part of what makes the tea so great for me is the accessories. Two months ago I purchased one of David’s Perfect Tea Mugs and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a clear mug (so you can watch your tea steep) and a very fine mesh steeping basket. There is also a cover which doubles as a saucer to put the basket in once your tea has finished steeping. I positively love it, and the basket is wide enough that it is fairly easy to clean by hand. By comparison we also have the David’s Tea by Bodum travel mug. At first I liked this one, and I do still like it for traveling, but it has a fatal flaw…it’s a royal pain in the arse to clean. The mug itself is long and thin on the inside, and the mesh filter that is meant to push your tea leaves out of the way tends to get gunked up pretty badly. The combination of these two issues pretty much demands that it be washed by a dishwasher; by hand just isn’t going to work. Since I spend so much time out West where I have only a small sink to clean my things in, this doesn’t work well for me.

In addition to the Perfect Mug, I’ve also purchased one of their Perfect Spoons. Basically it’s just a pre-sized spoon that measures out the exact amount that most David’s Tea recipes suggest (1.5 tsp), but it is awesome in its simplicity. I make a perfect cup of tea every time with its help.

OMG, the Actual Tea:
I’ll be honest, I’m up to about 30 different varieties at this point, and I’ve loved almost all of them. That may just mean I’m a tea maniac, I’m not sure. But for the sake of sharing, I’ll talk about a few of my favorites, and one in particular that I didn’t enjoy.

It’s difficult to choose an absolute favorite, but pretty high up on the list is Amaretto. One of the teas my husband got me for Christmas, this concoction of Lapaco, almond, apricot kernels, orange blossoms, rose blossoms, and flavoring smells exactly like a bottle of Disarona Amaretto. That is to say, it smells delicious. Seriously, I could just sit there and sniff the tin. But then, I’m a little looney. As far as flavor, it is a little weaker than some of the other teas, but when brewed a little strong it also tastes quite a lot like Disarona, only hot and without the alcohol content. Depending on your preferences, that could be an upside or a downside. I’ll let you decide, but for the record, for me it’s instant love.

Also high on the list is Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait. The mix of apple, hibiscus, raisins, carrot, yogurt bits, strawberry, rhubarb, and flavoring may be a little tart for some people, but to me it’s a delicious treat that makes me feel like I’ve had dessert. The best part? If you forget about it and it gets cold, it just ends up tasting like strawberry juice!

The last one that I’ll mention (before I end up giving you a blow-by-blow of every flavor I’ve ever bought) is Dragon Pearls. I was first attracted to this green tea simply because it seemed so neat…each of the “pearls” is hand-rolled from green tea leaves scented with jasmine flowers. As the tightly rolled little balls steep, they unroll (showing you just how meticulously miniaturized they really were) and release a very soothing scent. When I actually tasted it for the first time, I melted. Green tea is not for everyone, I know, especially not without some kind of addition such as honey, but personally I find Dragon Pearls to be incredibly calming and delicious. It is the kind of tea I would enjoy with some warm biscuits and butter. (Damn it, now I’m seriously craving some biscuits and butter…)

Now, to be fair, I have tried one tea that I did not enjoy at all. That one is Super Ginger. I bought it as a trial pack of teas meant to help when you’re suffering from a variety of ills. This mixture of ginger, green rooibos, pink peppercorns, black and white pepper, and flavoring is supposed to be a soothing cold remedy, but I had a seriously difficult time forcing it down. I found the overall flavor very spicy in an unpleasant way. It may have helped burn the cold out of me, but it wasn’t worth the cringing horror I felt whenever it was time to take a gulp. Better luck next time, DT.

So there you have it: yays and nays. But mostly yays. πŸ˜› Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a delicious hot cup of Cookie Dough tea to imbibe.

Call This Help?

It appears that the only problem with pre-scheduling my posts for during the work rotation is that when I get home for my off-days I forget that I have to, you know…manually post some entries. I’d like to try and fix myself of this issue if at all possible. One of the big reasons (I suspect) that I’ve been unsuccessful with blogs and the like in the past is because I have no concept of “regular updates”, which as it turns out is a bit important.

In my defense, I had a friend visit from away for four nights, and during three of those nights we devoured a large, large amount of alcohol. A large amount. I may be recovering for another three or four nights.

But I digress. This is an overdue post that I should have made about a week ago when it was originally relevant.

About a week and a half ago there was an article in the local newspapers, detailing a rather frustrating issue with our province’s apprenticeship board. Without going into a great amount of detail, some lawyer (of course) apparently discovered that the apprenticeship board does not actually have the authority to accept work hours that were obtained in other provinces. As an overwhelming number of Nova Scotia apprentices work outside Nova Scotia (i.e. where the jobs are), this is a bit of an issue. It was a topic of much contention out on the work site. But it’s not the main point of the article that bothered me so much…what really bothered me was a quote by an apprenticeship board spokesman that stated how they were trying to help apprentices through this issue and that they were “all about” helping apprentices through to completion of their apprenticeship.

In response to this quote I wrote an emphatic FaceBook status about just how “helpful” I’ve found the apprenticeship board to be over the years. My husband then pointed out that the spokesman I was addressing was unlikely to read my FaceBook page and suggested I submit my status to the newspaper. I did so, expecting nothing to come of it, and was contacted by a family friend a few days later to let me know that he’d just read my letter.

Not the most enormous deal in the world, but pretty exciting to me since it’s technically my first real publication. πŸ™‚ Confidence!

If anyone is interested in reading the letter that I wrote, I submit to you the link to the online version. My letter is third one down, entitled “Call this help?” and signed (obviously) Tracey Tobin.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/letters/130162-voice-of-the-people-august-27-2012

Critique Coping

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

20. How to cope with a substantial critique or edit

Reading critiques or edit suggestions must be the worst part of being a writer. I don’t care who you are, no one enjoys being told that there’s something wrong with the thing they’ve spent so much of their time and effort creating. Your initial reaction is always going to be one of defense: “This idiot doesn’t know what they’re talking about! I’m right and they’re wrong, end of discussion!” Even if you’re mature and composed enough to realize that the person giving you the critique has a very good point, part of you will still want to argue, to fight and say that there’s nothing wrong with the way you wrote it.

For myself, the way to deal with a critique is by taking a deep breath, reading it through a couple of times, and trying to see what the reader didn’t say. That is, I put a lot of effort into trying to decide whether the reader is being harsh because they really want to help, or if they’re just being intentionally cruel; whether their ideas have merit, or if they’re letting personal opinions get in the way of sense; whether they genuinely want to help you make the story better, or if they’re just shooting out some generic nonsense to mask the fact that they barely read the story.

The sad fact is that while you can’t have the knee-jerk defensive reaction to critiques, you also can’t accept them as gospel. One thing I learned while hanging out at Critique Circle is that, yes, some readers are knowledgeable people who truly want to help you make your story be the best that it can be, while other people are just going to force their opinions on you under the guise of giving you “advice”. That’s why it’s a good idea to have multiple proof-readers. For example, there is a scene near the beginning of the action in “Nowhere to Hide” in which the main character strips off her pajama top and wraps it around her fist so that she doesn’t hurt herself while breaking a window. When I posted this scene for critique, one reader told me that the whole scene was pointless and “smacked of fetish”. I was hurt and confused when I read that because I didn’t feel that way at all, and I thought the scene made a lot of sense given the situation. I was just beginning to wonder if maybe I was being a little sensitive when half a dozen other critiques came in and almost all of them mentioned how much they loved that particular scene. If I hadn’t gotten those other critiques I may have changed the scene based on one person’s opinion, which would have been foolish.

So in conclusion, take critiques seriously, but not always to heart.