A Surprising Perspective Shift
by Tracie Miles
When I joined the first COMPEL Critique Group in the Fall of 2019, I experienced an internal tug-of-war, and started to question the sanity of my decision. It was already in a personal season of slow, uncomfortable growth. Would it be too much to open another door for outside evaluation? Maybe. But deep down, I also knew the close-knit group was a necessary next step if I wanted to prioritize my writing.
If you’re like me, you might understand the same dreadful knot of uncertainty that comes with finally releasing your words into the world for the sole purpose of real time critique. It’s not easy to ask for feedback on your writing, especially when the words come from a tender place inside you. Like a nervous student, you hand them over. Then you wait and you wonder. You brace for the proofreading, the editing and the corrections that are sure to come.
That’s where I was. I put up a brave front, pressed send and launched my words into cyberspace, but fully expected to fall short of the mark. Surely my critique partners would pick my work apart, and though it would be uncomfortable, they would enlighten me in love.
Here’s what surprised me though. As months went by, I realized the exact opposite was actually true. I received kind and encouraging feedback, structured more around what went well rather than what could have been better.
In the process, I also noticed a slight perspective shift, and I realized the main breakthrough didn’t come from detailed feedback of my own words. Instead, I found myself paying close attention to the inspiration of my fellow writers. Even in a small online setting, the positive influence of others carried the greatest potential for my own improvement.
It was a simple shift, but an important one. As we traded devotions, blog posts and book ideas week after week, their words slowly formed new patterns for me to explore and consider. Not in the form of imitation, but by way of application. A natural progression that cultivated fresh awareness behind the scenes.
In life and in writing, I’ve noticed when I develop an eye for what’s good, and right and beautiful, there is a retraining of sorts that takes place. Maybe this should be an obvious conclusion, but I guess being a part of this group brought it out in a new way.
Because sometimes, I forget to focus on success. I forget to allow the accomplishments of others to support my own growth. Maybe you do too. When personal insecurities come to light, it’s easier to hone in on the mistakes than to step back and absorb the benefits that will lead us to a higher place on the journey.
As I considered these thoughts one day on an afternoon walk, I crunched across wet gravel in the driveway after severe rain swept through my neighborhood. A heavy ceiling of gray clouds still lingered. But way above the tall, long needled pine trees, a brilliant rainbow colored the landscape.
It reminded me of an important truth. The storms of life form and shape us. Critical words sometimes push us forward. Yet, it’s often the rain-washed beauty left in the wake of the storm that inspires and motivates us to grow, to change and to improve. When we learn to find the good, and settle there, a subconscious shift happens through osmosis.
The words of Philippians 4:8 come to mind. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I don’t know what your goal is today, but if you struggle with the temptation to beat yourself down over all the things you’re doing wrong, try to find what’s right. In your own work, and in the work of others. Remember, we are all students of life who learn and unlearn. The way we grow and gain inspiration can sometimes be surprising. What do you say we lean in and explore the possibilities together?
By Misty McElroy, COMPEL Training member
April 5, 2022