When Things Go South

On Saturday night I headed to East Carson Street in the South Side of Pittsburgh to a bachelorette party.  The South Side is Pittsburgh’s party section of town, dating back about 125 years when there was a bar on every corner.  Pittsburgh was a “working mans” city and the steel workers were known to crowd the corner pubs and restaurants after every shift…morning, noon, and night.  The steel mills lined the rivers and the bars were just a short walk away. 

Although the mills aren’t around any more, many of the bars remain.  Some are converted into trendy places and others look like they have 100 years of beer spilled on the floor.

Ordering a few of these in the company of twenty-something-year-olds preparing for wedded bliss wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. 


…but, after the worst Friday on recent record, I needed to get out.  The place was packed with humans who still legitimately get carded…and a few creatures on two feet who I seriously questioned might not be human.  Nonetheless, the band was playing some good tunes. 

Just a small town girl…… livin’ in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train……goin’ anyyyyyywhere.

The twenty-somethings call this an oldie.  Heh. 

So, on the South Side, I temporarily forgot about my life  taking a slight southerly turn on Friday.  If you didn’t read that post, I fell into a mini-panic after having a bad day and getting an e-mail at 4:55 PM from a client saying that my work wasn’t up to par. 

Being that a big part of my job is writing, I felt personally attacked.  When someone doesn’t like 100+ pages that you poured your heart and soul into, and asks for a re-write, then it’s hard to not take it personal.

I’m not sure if this is a strength or weakness in my BACKBONE, but when someone tells me I’m not good enough or can’t do something, I set out on a mission to prove them wrong.   So, after reading the e-mail over about 25 times and letting the message sink in, I started the re-write and have been at it ever since (except for the time-out for drinking with humans and non-humans in the South Side).

By the way, I was also once told that I would never start a blog.  I did.  Exactly one year ago today.  Proved THEM wrong, didn’t I!

Gotta get back to the re-write….I’m only on page 12.

How do YOU handle criticism?  Ignore it? Drink your problems away?  Turn the other cheek?  Get confrontational?

26 responses to this post.

  1. How do YOU handle criticism? Uusually I sulk first and then I decide if it has any truth to it and what I can do to change (if I am the one who needs to change). I do want to prove them wrong unless of course said criticim says more about them than me. It all depends on situation. So glad you’re feeling better…sometimes a night out with humans and nonhumans like bring us back into the light!


    • I sulk first, too. Disbelief followed by shock followed by a self-evaluation to determine if there’s any truth in what’s been said.


  2. It’s tough! My agent will send back revisions and they definitely sting at first…but in the end, my book is always better for it. Maybe you just consider the source? Because I have entered contests where some stranger ripped my writing to shreds and I felt completely demoralized afterward…but I didn’t even know this person. Maybe they were very insecure and putting down others made them feel better?

    I do know this…as much as it hurts, criticism is similar to weight-lifting. In weight-lifting the goal is to tear the muscle so it will grow back stronger. Same with criticism of your writing. When you take the criticism, weigh it against what YOU feel in your heart is best for your writing and adjust your writing accordingly (or not), you become stronger and stronger as a writer.


    • That analogy is great – thanks so much for sharing it – totally helped me see it in a different light. Thanks Stephanie!


  3. I so thought of YOU yesterday while browsing in Barnes and Noble; coming across a wonderful picture book on Pittsburg (Then and Now). And it’s so ironic that you posted that vintage photo of your city today – Ha!

    ” but when someone tells me I’m not good enough or can’t do something, I set out on a mission to prove them wrong.”

    Yeah, I’m the same way, girl! I also do that when “I” think I’m NOT smart enough to do something. Like, use a computer or learn web design. I’m bound and determined to teach myself.

    How do YOU handle criticism?

    As long as it’s done in a non-attacking way, I’m fine with it. It’s all in how someone SAYS it. Having been an stage actor, I’m use to criticism. It taught me a wonderful lesson in ‘discernment’ – knowing when someone is being constructive or just plain jealous.

    “By the way, I was also once told that I would never start a blog. I did. Exactly one year ago today. Proved THEM wrong, didn’t I!”

    You GO, girl! And I’m soooo glad you did because I got to meet you and that makes me VERY happy!

    Have a fantabulous day!



    • All critisism is perceived by me as being attackful – I need to work on that. Unlike you, I am not one to jump into figuring things out. In fact, I haven’t driven my husband’s car in 6 months because it’s “too complicated.” I know that sounds insane, but there are so many buttons on the dash and I feel like I’m in a cockpit – never, ever going to figure it out.


  4. That would be tough to take, and I think just how thick your skin is varies dramatically from person to person. That’s why it’s kinda fun to blog, because you do it your way, and nobody can tell you it’s done wrong. 🙂

    Good for you on just plugging away at it though!


  5. Criticism can be hard to swallow. When I was younger with a much lower self-esteem I took it very personal. It was saying I wasn’t good enough. That hurt me a lot. Took me a long time to form a likeable enough opinion of myself to put it in proper perspective. Also, I realized that I will NEVER be able to please everyone. That was a very liberating realization for me. I could finally start having some fun! Then I learned that sometimes it has nothing to do with me – it is the other person’s problem somehow. (I used to take responsibility for everyone’s faults and shortcomings, including my own – just imagine the burden.) Now I try to listen, think about it – whether it is relevant or not – sometimes I’ll ask another one or two people that I trust just to see if the criticism is the exception or the rule, and then I decide whether to ignore it or not. However, if someone criticizes and I realize that I was indeed wrong and didn’t see it/realize it before then I don’t quibble. I just suck it up, apologize and get right on to fixing it or making it better. It is not a “one size fits all” approach in my mind, but having a healthy self esteem lays a good foundation for handling it in the best and positive way. One more thing is to see if I can learn something from it – how can I do it better, or can I be better in any way. I’m forever doing that, I’ve noticed.

    I have to add: I have the same ‘thing’ going on as you – telling me that I can’t do it or it can’t be done… there are few other ways to REALLY get me going on a mission to find out for myself and prove it wrong. Too many people use that line nowadays to give themselves permission not to even bother trying (I think). Sometimes this works against me, but I’ve also achieved some wonderful things as a result of it that I wouldn’t have any other way. And of course to realize that it is ok for your feelings to be hurt instead of denying yourself the moment of pain before you get on to the solution.

    Sounds like you had a welcome break out with some girls; It can be good for some fresh perspective 😉


    • You’re so right that you can’t please everyone all the time. And, everyone isn’t worth pleasing, are they?

      “And of course to realize that it is ok for your feelings to be hurt instead of denying yourself the moment of pain before you get on to the solution.” GREAT comment. I’d rather hear the honest truth and be hurt by it momentarily if it offers a chance to see things in a different perspective and learning experience.


  6. Posted by pattisj on July 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Congrats on a year with your blog! I used to take criticism to heart, also being of low self-esteem. If it concerns my writing, I try to learn from it. Otherwise, I turn the other cheek/ignore it, ’cause this is who I am.


  7. Posted by beverlydiehl on July 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    My DJ son played for me a new dance mix that is Journey + electronica, and a few more – Kansas, Boston, etc. So, what’s “old” is new again, lol!

    Your writing didn’t match something she had in her head. Which, perhaps, SHE failed to convey to you clearly enough. I can testify there is nothing wrong with your writing, but that it didn’t suit her purpose, perhaps.

    Congratulations on your blogoversary! Between that and the owie from the nasty e-mail, you deserve a drink or two (and as long as it’s not out of control, nothing wrong with having a drink or two to help unwind.)


    • Thanks for saying that there’s nothing wrong with my writing – heart you. In retrospect, there was room for improvement and yes, I didn’t completely “get” what she was looking for in the first place. I think she needed to read what she didnt like to know what she actually wanted. Write in a “conversational tone” isn’t exactly specific direction when you’re referring to a technical document.


  8. Posted by Bonnie on July 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Ahhh, Journey – I’ve been known to put my head down on the table in a bar to that particular tune (shhh… our secret). I’ll never consider it an oldie either. 🙂 I believe setting out to do better in order to change that critical opinion is what I do too, Tracy. And, not a thing wrong with that!


  9. Happy anniversary, Tracy. Every writer needs to learn how to handle criticism because no matter how many people tell you they love your story there will be those who won’t and they won’t be scared to say so. To be trurthful sometimes it does feel personal. It really all depends upon who is offering the opinion and how they go about it. Like you, it usually makes me feel more determined to prove the critics wrong. Oh, we end up getting a tougher skin. It’s essential for every writer.


    • Thanks so much Laura for reassuring me that this process is normal and writers need to find a way to deal with bluntly expressed opinions about our work.


  10. That just demonstrates your great backbone. Don’t ever accept that from anyone..good for you!




  12. well, from a fellow writer, I can tell you that i know all about feeling rejected. hah. comes with the territory… but it really never get’s easier.

    Oh, i LOVE don’t stop believin! One of my fav. bar songs!


  13. FUN! I can SO relate to your bad day Friday. I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing lately and the criticisms do hurt a little, when I miss the mark on something. I applied for a freelance job once where the guy wasn’t happy with my hourly rate and he said, “Your writing is decent but your rate is too high.” I e-mailed back that he would be better off finding someone whose work he was excited about…he backtracked and said he thought my writing was good, but he’s looking for someone who will work for much cheaper. Whatever…don’t call my writing “decent.” Them’s fighting words!


    • Knowing what you’re worth is essential in the business world. Some people are unrealistic, accepting way less than they are worth or shooting way too high. Sounds like you have a great grasp on it and GOOD FOR YOU for telling that guy to look elsewhere. That was very DECENT of you. 🙂


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