, 15 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
A quick #thread on the importance of #mentorship and critical #feedback in writing. I’m targeting students, trainees, and younger faculty who struggle with the #mentoring process- I’ll share some vulnerability to demonstrate a #growthmindset- I’ll also recommend 2 books.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited by @AnnalsATS to write an editorial for a paper. I loved the topic so I quickly agreed and started ordering my thoughts. It was a quick turnaround- 2 weeks, so I had to get moving.
I worked diligently on the draft and invited @vitaincerta to co-author- she is smart as a whip and a terrific writer and I knew she would really help to shape a well-written piece. She agreed and I sent her my #ShittyFirstDraft.
As an aside, I always refer to a first pass as a #ShittyFirstDraft, directly inspired by a chapter in the book “Bird by Bird” by @ANNELAMOTT . I can’t recommend that book highly enough. Entertaining and insightful. And funny. bit.ly/2WkTllG
.@vitaincerta sent her edits and it looked like a bloodbath- red everywhere. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t shocking when I open a draft this red, but I have been doing this long enough to know there is growth in discomfort.
I find many trainees feel as though red marks on their drafts are an attack on their very soul- but this could not be further from the truth. The more red, the more the person cares about the work.
Besides the edits, @vitaincerta recommended that we ask @JHartMD to co-author, as she has good insights to the topic. We were down to a week until the submission was due, and I was nervous about timing, but we went forward. Plus at this point we had a good draft.
.@jhartmd sent our draft back and suggested a major revision by disputing a fundamental assumption about the paper. A MAJOR REVISION!?!

Truthfully, I was flabbergasted and sure that she had misread the paper. (By this time I had read it about 6 times.)
I re-read the original paper on which our editorial was based. I did my best to forget my priors and look at it with a fresh set of eyes. Sure enough, there was an alternate interpretation of the paper that I had completely overlooked. I was gobsmacked by my blind spot.
This required that @vitaincerta and @jhartmd and I completely rework the draft in only a couple of days. And I was still not convinced all of the arguments we were discussing flowed well from the original paper.
We set up a call and hashed out the changes, incorporating both potential interpretations. We realized we pretty much agreed on things, but our prior assumptions and perspectives were a bit different. We tapped out a new draft, completely different than the #ShittyFirstDraft.
Lesson: Surrounding yourself with people who are only going to tell you “good job” will lead to mediocrity. This clip from the movie “Whiplash” (a terrific movie, although with a terrible teaching role model) describes this well.
Abraham Lincoln’s approach to embracing critical feedback is outlined well in @doriskgoodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”- he purposefully surrounded himself with people that would challenge his priors. The best leaders do this. And a 2nd great book. bit.ly/2Wjvbrv
And the @DeptOfDefense and other large organizations frequently employ “red teams” to poke holes in major ideas and plans to make sure that prior assumptions are not clouding decision-making. bit.ly/2FlP5vi
So, embrace red marks in drafts from your #Mentors. They almost always represent a true investment in your development as a writer and will make the ideas you convey better in all respects. I’m still learning and growing, and I am almost a decade into my career.
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