Sometimes a victory that feels huge can suddenly sound obvious when you try to explain it. For me, the key is to remember how important it is to you.
I am in the process of getting more feedback on my work – I sent a revised draft paper out to collaborators before Easter and have been receiving their comments over the last two weeks. Nine people have replied (with at least one more to come), and so far eight have been very positive, constructive and helpful. There are aspects to improve, of course, but it all feels manageable. The other one uses much more blunt and harsh sentences and I immediately felt disappointed while reading it the first time.
I know that three months ago this would have got to me. I would have re-read that email enough times to remember every word, taken this criticism personally, and allowed it to really change my mood and views for days, probably weeks, on everything I’ve done.
This time it didn’t even ruin my mood for a day. When I say that sentence it sounds natural that this is how science should work, but for me, this is a major improvement!
I know there are many differences between this set of feedback and the set I got just before Christmas, some within my control and some outside it. For example, my work is better after the first feedback cycle, I’m less worried about collaborators’ comments as I’ve gone through the process once before, I’ve sent it to a wider range of people in the collaboration who have slightly different specialties, different people have more (less) time to be more (less) thorough, and I chose to ask for the feedback to be returned just after a holiday period (rather than just before!). Overall, whichever factors contributed most to my different reaction, I am pleased because it feels like I’m making progress in how to deal with the process of collaborative science.
The concept that “receiving pointed criticism on my work didn’t ruin my day” is something that I want to become natural to me. Until that time (if it ever comes), I will try to recognise happily the occasions when I achieve it.