Getting Your Ass Handed to You is Good for the Soul


If you worked with me at Barnes & Noble, then you’ve heard of “The Love Sandwich.” The Love Sandwich was my method of writing employee reviews. Your review starts with a positive statement about your employee’s performance. Then, you deliver your criticism in the second paragraph. Finally, you conclude by telling your employee that you recognize his or her positive qualities and that you have confidence that he or she can address potential challenges. Good, then bad, then good. The Love Sandwich.

Today, I received my own decidedly not tasty Love Sandwich in the form of an e-mail from my writing mentor in my MFA program. I had sent him the first three chapters of my novel to read about a week ago and, of course, I had been checking my e-mail every 20 seconds Today, I received his commentary. Good, bad and then…okay, so he forgot the last part of The Love Sandwich, the second good part.

“On the plus side, your writing is clean and easy to read.” Hmm. My first grade teacher’s writing was the same way. So was the Unabomber’s. I continued reading.

“Your characters are well-introduced and well-identified.” Oh, good, I got their names right consistently. Another plus.

He went on to say that he liked the first chapter and that I had set up several potentially powerful conflicts. Not as powerful as the Trojan War, but still powerful.

“But…there are some problems here that you need to address.” Uh oh. The next thing I knew, I was reading four very lengthy paragraphs about the problems with my work. Too much exposition, a shift in point of view that he didn’t like. His criticisms were helpful and valid, but I’m not used to being on the other side of the table having my ass handed to me. As a corporate lackey, I handed out criticism the way that Latter Day Saints pass out The Book of Mormon. I’m not used to being in the position of taking my own dosage of “You suck.”

No worries. His insights will help a lot once I stop wanting to douse my book with gasoline and burn it. He did conclude by saying, “I’m happy to work with you on this.” That’s something, right?

Lesson learned: Keep your eyes open for karma. The Love Sandwich was not as palatable as I had imagined.

5 thoughts on “Getting Your Ass Handed to You is Good for the Soul

  1. OUCH! I know how you feel with the relationship I have with my current job. One day “you are amazing, keep up the good work” to the five minutes later, “you didn’t do enough here, you suck! WORK HARDER”. It’s kinda like an abusive relationship which you hope one day will be better. Until then keep on swimming.

  2. Amazing post, hilarious really. I personally think the love sandwich is a good idea. Of course it would never feel that way if I got one, but I can still see the value in it.

    Adieu, scribbler

  3. Melissa says:

    Ah! Yes, in grading undergrads, we “love sandwich” them, too. I’ve never heard the term, but it’s PERFECT.

    There’ll be a point (after the so-called “bad” feedback results in great improvements to your manuscript) that you’ll start getting excited about getting the “bad.” I had one guy on my dissertation committee who, I swear, had Aspberger’s; he was extraordinarily difficult to engage in a social situation and often delivered feedback in a way that made people contemplate homicide, but damned if he didn’t provide most of my “AHA!” moments in the dissertation. He saw the big picture incredibly well and helped me frame things in a way that revealed where I should go next. I once hugged him in gratitude; his arms remained stiffly by his side as he muttered, “Well, that’s alright, then,” and he lunged for the door the moment I let go. But he knew how grateful I was for his unique talent. Even if he annoyed the hell out of me every time he stuck his head into my prison cell–I mean, office–and said, “So when are you gonna finish this thing, Williams?”

    Hope your writing mentor turns out to be your own tormentor/genius in your program and that you get as much out of that relationship as I did.

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