Know Your Source

Approximately one year ago, while frantically trying to get ready for the RITA awards, I turned to my roommates—two very dear, trusted friends of mine—and I asked them a serious question. A question I had avoided asking for years, I was so worried about the answer I might receive.

Namely: Are my eyebrows okay?

Bert from Sesame Street says U is for Unibrow This might not seem like a serious question to some people, but to me, it was a source of anxiety and self-doubt. I’m the child of a woman who never wore makeup in her life, who referred to push-up bras as “liar bras”, and whose highest pair of heels was a staggering inch and a half. Pretty much everything I’ve learned about makeup and clothes has been self-taught, and I’ve always secretly worried I was doing it wrong.

Eyebrows in particular were this mystifying thing. I thought mine looked okay, but people who don’t get them right are subject to such derision.

Treating my question with the gravity it deserved, my roommates took a long look at my face. And then, at the exact same time, chimed in with, “Well, you could probably fill them in a little,” AND, “You could stand to thin them out a smidge.”

I was, unsurprisingly, boggled.

The interesting thing about this story is not the current state of my brows—though I would venture to say that they’re looking quite a bit better than they used to. It’s the fact that, upon further reflection, I noticed an important fact.

The person who suggested I could stand to fill them in a bit? Fills hers in. The one who suggested thinning them out? Has to thin hers out.

You see, no matter how objectively we think we’re approaching a situation, we can’t help but view it through the lens of our experiences. Our own biases. Whatever problem you see in your own personal care routine you’re more likely to see in others’.

And whatever problems you see in your own manuscripts, you’re also more likely to find in your friends’.

And so we arrive at the point of this post.

Critique partners, editors, beta readers. Whomever you turn to for feedback on your words. Their input is invaluable. BUT, they will always bring their perspective to their interpretation of your work. While no piece of feedback should be discarded out of hand, it’s important to know who’s giving the feedback and how their own experiences may shape what they have to say. The CP who LOVES dirty talking may prod you to add more. The one who cringes at it may suggest you cut it down. Is either point of view less worthy of consideration? Absolutely not. But knowing your critique partners’ biases help you decide how to take their feedback and how best to adjust your story in light of it.

Finally, it’s worth noting that with respect to my eyebrow situation? Biased or not, and as contradictory as their advice might have seemed at the time: both of my roommates were right.

And a tiny bit of plucking and a good brow pencil make an absolute world of difference.

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