Back when I was performing musical theater in high school, I took ballet twice a week for three years. I tried to keep with it when I went to college and even after college, but rock climbing quickly took over. It has been a few years since I stepped into a ballet studio, but I still carry some of the important “ballet” skills with me.
For example: I’ve learned to take constructive criticism like a ballerina.
Look, it ain’t easy standing in a room full of rail thin girls in a pair of tights, a leotard, and slippers. Then, lifting your foot above your head while maintaining composure and elegance. I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to raise your leg gracefully without scrunching your face like you’re instantly regretting taco night? Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. Awkward. Hence rock climbing because you can make faces like this and no one cares:
Nevertheless, there are girls who do look beautiful when they dance. I admire them for it. I wish I had such a talent. Alas, I don’t.
But how do ballerinas get to be so elegant and swan-like?
They’ve learned to take criticism.
I was the girl in ballet class who cringed every time the mistress would work her way toward my corner of the studio. You see, I wanted so badly to dance on pointe and look like that gorgeous dancer in the above photo. So, when the mistress approached me, I straightened my back, pulled in my stomach, lifted my arm higher. I gave it my all. I swore I looked perfect even if the mirror didn’t agree. And the truth was: I wasn’t perfect. So, the mistress would grab my shoulders and pull them back. She’d lift my torso so I’d elongate my core. She’d turn my foot out a little further to give me a cleaner line from my hip to my toes.
She brought me closer to my ballet dreams than I could on my own. And all I had to do was accept her help and her personal touch.
For writers, betas or editors are our ballet mistresses or masters. We take our craft, our art as far as we can on our own. We put out the very best material we can create. But sometimes our best needs a little help along the way. Sometimes someone else says, “Hey, you could do more here to draw the reader in” or “Do more worldbuilding here” and that ignites a side to your mind that had been left dormant or neglected. You think, why didn’t I see that? And then you quickly dive into your manuscript and make it sparkle even more.
So when a reader/editor/beta offers you their advice to make you the Swan Queen (or King), don’t freeze up and back away like they’re going to swallow your soul. Straighten your back, go deeper into your plie, and show them that with their guidance, you can be more than you ever could on your own.
Be the Swan Queen! (though, not Natalie Portman’s Swan Queen cuz that’s just creepy)