Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fall in Love Again: Careers, Marriages, & Critique Partners

by Nicki Salcedo

Working 9 to 5

I recently attended an all day meeting at my new job. I got to work at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until 9 p.m. It was a loooong day, but I learned a great deal about finance, marketing, and operations. All business stuff, but the most interesting comment I heard came from the Vice President of Human Resources. He said there are three things that employees must have to be successful at their jobs. I’ll paraphrase what I heard:

  • Employees must enjoy their actual job. The tasks. The stuff they do.
  • Employees must like their co-workers. The people they know. The people they work with.
  • Employees must respect their managers. They must believe that they work for a capable leader. Or a capable company.

If any one of these three things is missing, an employee won't like going to work. After this meeting, I spoke to a former colleague, and I mentioned that things were going well on my new job. Her response, "You're still in the honeymoon phase."

George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die

This month, many of the Petits have spoken about weddings and marriages. I hope my work honeymoon lasts as long as my marriage honeymoon phase. I'm still in it. I believe that work is a lot like marriage. Bear with me. I’ll tell you something that’s a lot like both work and marriage, but first some marriage advice from an eight-year newlywed. If you know me, you've heard this advice a hundred times before. And if you continue to know me, you'll hear it again.

  • Do things freely and cheerfully. Don't do anything with the expectation that your spouse/partner owes you something in return. If you are scratching his back so you get your back scratched in return, you are scratching for the wrong reason. Just scratch because you want his itch to go away.
  • Be glad when you see your spouse at the end of the day. I like to tell what's-his-name, "You're the least idiotic person I've seen all day." Your spouse should be your ray of sunshine. You should be able to see the good in the ordinary things they do. Try to think of three good things about your spouse each day. Think of it as a prayer or mediation or an offering of thanks.
  • Treat your marriage like your job. Respect each other. He should be the smartest, funniest guy you know. She should be the most intuitive and spontaneous person you know. If you can only think about his beautiful biceps, remember that one day things are going to change. You better be able to appreciate his intelligence and humor when he starts looking like Mr. Potato Head.

You are the Wind Beneath My Wings

A critique group is the ultimate blending of career and marriage. A lot of what I learned about critiquing came from college. I was a creative writing major, and there were some simple rules.

  • You've got to like writing and be willing to share your writing.
  • You’ve got to critique with people whose opinions you trust. Who is the grammar girl in your group? Who is the plotting guru? The motivator? The word weaver? No sense in having a critique partner who loves everything that you write. Nothing critical about that.
  • You’ve got to respect that the writing process is both creative and a craft. Establish parameters for how and when you'll critique. Set realistic expectations for your group.
  • No excuses or explanations. Let your writing speak for itself. Save talking for brainstorming. Just bring it on the page!
  • Your rebuttal is your revision(s). Revising doesn't mean to change your story every way someone suggests, but it does mean understanding the critique and using your best judgment to make your story stronger based on the critique.
  • Write every word like you are writing for an audience. When I was a kid, I used to write poetry in a purple notebook. I never wanted anyone to read it. Writing was my secret escape. Most writers start out that way. I'm never going to share my 30 page ode to River Phoenix written in slant rhyme with you. But today, I am writing for you. And you are writing for your career. Write like your book is going to be published. Write like your future editor or agent is reading. Don't censor yourself. Let your real voice and story shine through.

Falling Out of Love

Have you ever had a stomach ache before going to work? Have you looked at your spouse and wondered, what happened to the person you fell in love with? Do you sometimes do everything possible to avoid writing? Just as we fall in love, sometimes we fall out of love. Maybe one or two of the tips above might help you. I encourage you to stay focused and motivated in all aspects of your life.

Fall in Love Again

A spouse should help you be a better person than you would be alone. I hope that your critique partners do the same. They should make you a better, stronger, faster writer than you ever have been before. Love your job, love your spouse, and love the hybrid of the two: your critique partners. Here's to Jena, LaShon, Jeanette, Marilyn, Michelle, Kimberly, Kym, Maria, Alissa, Jennifer (in China) and the other Jennifer, my nieces and nephews, my sisters, my mom (another Jennifer), what's-his-name, and anyone who has ever shared their writing with me or been brave enough to read my words. Critique partners are some kind of wonderful.

Let's fall in love all over again. Happy writing.

Pop Quiz:

  • Find the movies. I've referenced at least five movies in the blog above.
  • I'd love to hear comments about what you like about your job.
  • Got any advice for a good marriage?
  • What works in your critique group?
  • For my non-writing friends, what do you do that you love? Golf? DragonCon? Running? What's your bliss?


Chicki said...

Wonderful post, Nicki! Everything you said is so true. Liking your crit partners is very important. I've been in an online group for four years, and I think of these ladies like sisters even though we've never met in person.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Chicki, I'm glad you've found something that works for you. Finding good critique partners is like finding "the one"!

Thanks for stopping by.

Kym said...

You've helped me realize that my marriage to my erstwhile WIP is in trouble. We might need counseling. Great post, Nicki!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

You have some great thoughts on work, marriage, and critique partners. I'm mainly impressed you have a job where they discuss your being happy there. My second to last job killed morale then accused all of us of having a bad attitude.

As for marriage, I liked what you said about scratching your partner's back to get the itch. I'll have to tell him he's the least idiotic person I've seen all day; I'm sure he'll get a kick out of that.

As for critique partners, that one is a struggle for me. It really is just like a job (you have to show up) and a marriage (you have to meet in the middle). It's probably safe to say I'm not as good a critique partner as I am wife or employee.

Thanks for such great food for thought. I didn't get all 5 movies, but I found 4. My favorite reference was It's a Wonderful Life, of course. :)

CiCi Barnes said...

I love when you guys hit the nail on the head in these blogs(sorry for the cliché). And you've done a great job with this one.

Passion for your work, your love life and your friends is so important. You're going to have days when things don't go right, the people around you have no sense, and your mood hits bottom. Only if that's the case everyday do you have a problem.

Look for the positive, even if it's the size of a grain of sand.

I have all the movies but one, like Sally. Not sure about the falling out of love comment. That maybe after my time of constantly going to the movies.

Love the post, Nicki.


Mrugaya said...

Lovely post know I can especially identify with the "work" piece. Love the way you tie marriage and work together so beautifully. Hopefully I can take that perspective towards my next job :)

Miss seeing you in the hallways although I don't miss the hallways :)

Nicki Salcedo said...

Kym, I'm just glad to hear that you are thinking about your WIP. It is tough when work gets busy and after a long day you need to turn on your creative side. Don't forget to share what you are writing with me!

Dianna Shuford said...

I enjoyed your post, Nicki. I'm in full agreement with your thoughts on job, marriage, and critique partners.

The only words I would add for critique partners is accountability. For me that's important. When I'm not feeling well or had a long day at work it's often my critique partners who keep me accountable for making sure I write something, anything. Writing can be so solitary and them asking to read something pushes me to get that next page or chapter written.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning, Nicki:
Great post, as usual! With my critique partner, I find that it helps that neither of us is overly sensitive and we both know that the other person doesn't expect us to rewrite for them. We let each other maintain the integrity of their own story.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Sally, I've been lucky to have so many good work experiences. I try to remain positive, and I stay away from co-workers who do nothing but complain. I was pretty impressed that at my new job the executives were raffling off their favorite business books to the team. It was like a GRW meeting, but instead of books about highland warriors, it was books like "7 habits of highly effective people." I think good leaders want their workers to work smarter and happier.

I do a lot of back scratching.

I could be a better critique partner, but my critique partners could do better, too. I know they're reading this... 10 pages by Monday, ladies.

Thanks, Sally!

Nicki Salcedo said...

Cici, I'll give you a hint. You are probably missing the cheerleading movie...

Sometimes all the positive only amounts to a grain of sand. But when you pile it up it eventually makes a beach! You are always so positive, Cici. We could all take a lesson from you. Have a great day.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Mu, I miss you, too. I've worked with some pretty cool people and consider myself lucky to know you. Enjoy this time off (I'm sure it will be brief) and enjoy you little baby. Maybe we'll work together again one day soon! ;)

Nicki Salcedo said...


Amen to accountability. It is needed in critique partners and in marriages. A critique partner who keeps you accountable really cares about your success as a writer.

I have no doubt that you tell it like you see it. Again, another way you show your critique partners that you care about their success. Take the gloves off and leave yoru feelings at home.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jeanette Cogdell said...

Yes Nicki, we could do better. A LOT better. I'm happy to be a part of this group. You guys tell it like it is and that's exactly what I need.

10 page huh? I better get on that. LOL

Great post. Can't wait for the Write In.

Nicki Salcedo said...

J, you are famous. I posted your pic on the blog. I think that we do the best that we can. It is a balance. I'd hate to think that I neglected time with my kids so I could get 10 pages to my critique group. I wouldn't change us. We motivate, and we are also realistic. Now didn't Marilyn say she wrote 80 pages that we haven't seen yet?!? Where is that lady? :)

Everyone is welcome to our "Write Inn" July 11, Decatur Holiday Inn conference Cneter (in Atlanta, GA). $10 8am-2pm. No talking, all writing. Bring your A-Game.

Anna Steffl said...

Workin' 9-5 , what a way to make a livin'. Well, I did get that movie reference.

Ah, critiquing. It brings a cold shudder over me on a 100 degree day. I do work with one person who keeps it professional and we work great. Another...I'm tying to skip town on like a slimy boyfriend.

As always, excellent writing.

Ana Aragón said...

Great post, Nicki!

Work...marriage...critique group...all three important aspects of the writer's life. After a 32 year ride on a wooden roller-coaster of a marriage, I can tell you it's the humor that keeps us going. And it's that way at work, too. I think that's why my production in writing has slipped--I'm not having much fun with it.

I definitely need a new project!

Thanks for the pick-me-up.


Nicki Salcedo said...

Anna, so that was you in the wig and dark glasses at GRW last week. Breaking up with a critique partner is extra hard to do. I hope it works out for you :)

If the world was humorless I wouldn't be able to go on. There are a few phrases my what's-his-name says and no matter how often I hear them, they make me laugh. Come to the "Write Inn", walk around Decatur, and we'll get you smiling and writing. I hope you have another 32 years of laughter and marriage.

Thanks for stopping by.

Susan May said...

I'm going to print of your words about marriage for Mary Beth to read. THey are so true. Your right about critique partners they are soooo important. THey are also our supporters when we think there is no hope. Thanks for reminding us.

Gabi Stevens said...

Great post, Nicki.
On marriage: As a twenty-five year honeymoon phaser (sort-of; some of the gloss has rubbed off) let me add one more step: never stop planning your future. We're constantly planning travels, even if they are never realized. And we're always talking about what we're going to do when we have free time (hah!).

On career: I won't say much about that; my job is just to get the girls through school, and writing is so much more than a just a career. But the man can talk about his career like a kid opening presents under the Christmas tree. His eyes light up and he gets all excited. He loves his robots, and that's the way it should be.

On critique: I would add one more requirement: safety. If you're going to open yourself up to critique, you have to KNOW that the people who are going to knock you down (and they should) are doing it because they love you and they want to see YOU succeed.

Great topic, Nicki.

Marilyn Baron said...

Great post Nicki and that's a cute picture of our critique group.

Okay, now I'm up to 111 pages on my new project. I'm going to the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Write Away tomorrow so I hope to increase that. So I can send you 10, no problem.

I got It's a Wonderful Life, Working 9-5 but didn't catch the others, except when you mentioned cheerleading, it's Bring it On?

I heard a funny thing at the hairdresser today. One woman said her son has been living with a girl for 7 years and they finally decided to get married. Another woman said, "I don't know why people bother to get married. It never lasts." I guess you have to start out with a good attitude or you're doomed to failure.

I have one friend who's been married and divorced four times. He never gives up on love.


Nicki Salcedo said...

Another bit of marriage advice (also parenting and life advice), is trust your instincts and find what works best for you. My critique partners are really good at saying "you can do it." It really helps.

Look toward the future is great advice. If he gets excited about robots, he probably gets pretty excited when he see you, too. I man who finds joy in life is a joy to be around. Got love your critique partners. They've seen you with your pants down! We'd love to spotlight you when your next book comes out. :)

Nicki Salcedo said...


You get the gold star for "Bring it On." One of my favorite movies! Man, when you get writing you are a machine. I like that picture of us, we look so happy. As for those ladies at your hairdresser...stay away from them. They reap what they sow. Keep your karma happy and light!Good luck writing this weekend.

Dianna Love said...

Hi Nicki - I love the way you analyze and compare.

As for loving what I do - I only do things I am passionate about. That doesn't mean I've always had the option of working my first choice in jobs, but I always put my all into anything I did, even waiting tables.

As Billy Joel said, "If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time."

So it's important to keep working at what you love, even if you have to do it part time until you get to do it fulltime.

As for a good marriage - in mine, we are each other's biggest fans and best friends. Find someone who can make you laugh and see the world through your eyes (both spouses) and you've got a winner.

One tip I often share with newly married couples - give your spouse every consideration you would give strangers or coworkers or people at the store. I'm always surprised when I see someone show more manners to a person who is not that significant in their life - like a neighbor they see on occasion - than their spouse.

You offer great tips for developing a strong critique group.

Mark said...

Greg section on critique groups, Nicki! I'd add that at times you might want to specify what aspect of the writing you'd like critiqued: if it's draft one, you might want input on the plot or characterization, if it's draft five, you might want sentence polishing. And if you think a critique group is like a marriage, you should try traveling with a band! You have to live with them!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Dianna, your tip on consideration will be my new number 1 marriage advice. Never have truer words been spoken. It is not just for your spouse. We are nice to strangers and express our frustrations on all of our loved ones. I'm sure my husband would like it if I hugged him as much as I hug people at GRW :)

Thanks for stopping by and always keeping us motivated.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Mark, I can't wait for the VH1 documentary on your band days. I'm guessing breaking up a band is worse than a marriage because its so many more people.

Great point about which draft your critique partner is reading. No line edit for draft one, no major plot changes with draft five!

I'm excited that you will be our featured speaker at GRW later this year! Ya'll come hear Mark present in November.

Gabi Stevens said...

I'd love to be when the book comes out (May 2010).
Thanks for the invite.

Nicki Salcedo said...


Ever Yours is in my Top 10 Favorite books. Right next to McNaught, Garwood, Kleypas. I am rather anxiously awaiting May 2010! The Petit Fours would love to interview you and steal some of your awesomeness. :)

Linsey Lanier said...

Sorry to come in so late...

Nicki, I love your creative posts. :) Love the movie references and the cute picture of you all. As far as my job goes, I like the people I work with and right now, the security.

My DH and I have a pact to hug and kiss each other at least once a day. It's usually several times.

I will be there to hear Mark. Yeah!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Linsey, you are not late. We are going to party until the break dawn!

When I have a happy day at work, I come home happy, and it makes a big difference in my life.

Your DH is a lucky man!

We should start a Mark All fan club :)

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Nicki. I love your posts. You always leave me thinking way outside of the box and wondering why "I never thought of that."

I TRY not to be negative and I do my best not to get bogged down with people who are. But we all know how hard that can be. I have found that I'm a huge follower but I'm doing my best to be that leader who encourages everyone else to strive to do "their" best.

I don't always succeed but I do try...

Nicki Salcedo said...

Tami, since you are the founder, creator, and leader of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales I wouldn't exactly call you a follower. We are following your lead! And you are the most sincere and earnest person I know (Pay me $20 and I say something nice about anyone). I thought southerners were nice, then I realized the real deal is from Wyoming. You guys invented nice.

We all have to dodge the "negative Nellies" and "Deby downers", but sometimes it is nice to complain. If you cannot look at your relationships in a positive light or your job (they do pay you money for your job you know) something is wrong. Have you met some of those angry writers. What are they torturing themselves for? They need to grow up to be like Tami Brothers. Happy and hard working and kind. :)

Molly Evans said...

I started to leave a comment this morning, got distracted by life and have just now made it back. Eek. Too much going on at once in life right now.
Great blog topic and your take on it is great. Keep up the good work!

Nicki Salcedo said...

Molly, you have a life? Lucky you! Thanks for stopping by. We loved having you as our guest. Keep us posted on that life of yours. :)

J Perry Stone said...

Nicki, I cannot believe you posted this on the day I went on a 2 and half hour job interview!

Read the first portion really helped me calm down because I was actually interviewing them.

Would I like them?

Would I respect them should they become my superiors?

Would I enjoy the work?

From what i could tell, yes.

I hope I'm right. If not, I'll live for the writing.

You're are my shrink/inspirational speaker-kind-of-blogger. I really needed to read this today.

Love your guts.

Nicki Salcedo said...

JP, I hope all goes well. A job impacts our relationships and our writing, so it is more important that we realize. It isn't just to pay the bills. I hope whatever you wish for comes true. Best of luck! We all live for the writing. :)

Tami Brothers said...

Awwww, you made me blush, Nicki! Thanks a ton for your very nice words. I definitely needed it!


Jill said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post today, though I hadn't intended to leave a post... All you creative writing folks are a bit intimidating to an old math teacher like me!

Your connections to other writers is really interesting: supportive encouraging, yet honest. I like it! We didn't have "critique groups" in Math Ed! That model could really be beneficial to new teachers... or homeschool moms or new mothers or new spouses or...

I'm thankful I've been blessed with good connections to family (and a few good friends) to fill that need in my personal life.

I couldn't find all 5 movies, but Wonderful Life is one of our favorites!

Nicki Salcedo said...

Hi Jill,

I appreciate an outside perspective. Critique groups are sort of like study groups in college taken to the next level. I think gathering with peers is great support no matter what the field. Goodness knows moms need it more than any one!

Its a Wonderful Life is such a great movie. "George Bailey, I'll love you til the day I die" is my all time favorite line and scene.

Thanks for stopping by!

Nicki Salcedo said...

The five movies are:

9 to 5
It's a Wonderful Life
Bring it On
Some Kind of Wonderful

..and a complaint from my friend Gregg that Mr. Potato Head is a reference to Toy Story. I'll accept that, too.

Anonymous said...

I feel privileged when I get to read anything that you've written, because I remember the times that you used to hide your brilliance. (BTW, this is my first time on a blog, I hope my response isn't too goofy - thank for bringing me into 2009).

I love what you wrote about marriage - respect, looking for the best and selfless giving. Its actually completely Biblically grounded. I think the only additional piece of marriage advice (and I'd only give it to people not yet married) is to choose carefully. Although I'm addicted to self-help advice stuff, alot of what works about me and RAGM, you and SS, and MHJ and HJ, is not what we do everyday, its the quality of the match. The couples are perfect for each other (values, interests, goals). With most of my friends who are having marital problems, they never had that "fit" on all the key things (including KH and JH).

Anyway, I love you very much - RRHM

Michelle said...

Hello! I'm late to the party. Damn computer. What a great picture of us! I can still say with a totally straight face that I love my husband every bit as much today, 15 years later, as I did the day I met him. I can also say, with a straight face, that I adore and love Nicki every bit as much today as the day I met her. Maybe I'm exceptionally loyal, or maybe I just have been blessed to have wonderful people enter my life. I think I drew the really lucky card with you, Nicki. I know you hate this mushy stuff, but you are THE BEST.

Nicki Salcedo said...


I agree. You can't pick someone else's relationship for them. Finding the right "fit" is great advice for marriage and job, too. When it is the right fit, you have to do so much less work. And marriage is so much work even when things are going well. I really appreciate you stopping by! You should write a blog about how to be a success at work. You are my hero.

Nicki Salcedo said...


Don't you think you probably love him better 15 years later? When I think about when we were first married, I think I've learned a lot about been a better partner over the years. And the honeymoon phase isn't nearly filled with as much honey as you think. :)

You are the best wife I ever had! You take my emotional outbursts in stride and try to remember/remind that writing is first. Did I tell you that Marilyn sent me 111 pages this week. She is a rock star. We've got to get writing! And we forgot to celebrate our anniversary in May.