The Teachable Spirit and the Writer

As a mom and homeschool teacher, I’m always on the word “teachable spirit” with my kids. When they are being obstinate or rude or just not listening, I have found myself saying, “Where is your teachable spirit?”

So what does it mean to have a teachable spirit and how does it relate to writing?

Oh boy, you ready for this can of worms?

Summed up in one word: Humility.


Having a teachable spirit means:

  • You’re fully aware of your limitations and abilities.
  • You can and DO regularly ask for help and advice (before, not after your mess it up).
  • You listen and glean from anyone and everyone you can.
  • You move out of your comfort zone and often!
  • You don’t give up but get up and try again (of course, then you go to point two– *wink*).
  • You’re willing to change your views and practices when convincing evidence is presented to you, even if it means admitting you were wrong.

How does this teachable spirit translate into your life as a writer? Can you guess?

As all writers know, we have these awesome, amazing, and completely talented friends and colleagues called critique partners. They pour as much heart and soul into your novels as you do in writing them. They give you all their thoughts and all their dreams for your novel. They also tear it to shreds. As is their job.

If you’ve never had a full critique from another author on a new project you’re working on, you’ve never truly died… I mean, lived. First time I got a critique back, I nearly threw in the towel. I mean really. I had no idea what I had received and quite frankly it was a tough pill to swallow. This friend, or at least I thought she was my friend, handed me back my manuscript with so many questions, comments, and wrongs. Seriously, my heart was broken and frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to get over it.

This right here is an unteachable spirit. One that I am sooo glad has passed. Because the thing I’d missed in all the red pen marks was all the positive things that should have encouraged me. All the issues that had set me asunder, were actually fixable and would make the story even stronger. Sure not all the comments I agreed with, but for the most part they were good! And once I was able to look at them again with a teachable spirit it was a complete 180. Instead of feeling like I’d been personally attacked, I felt inspired and empowered!


Having a teachable spirit when you are an author is 100% the most important trait you can ever adopt. Your partners are NOT out to get you. They want to see you succeed and make your manuscript the best that it can be. They want you to reach your full potential, they know is there, and bring your characters to a height even YOU might  not have known was ever there!  Having a teachable spirit translates into your novel in so many dividends. In ways far greater than monetary ones.

Do you have a teachable spirit? Do you struggle with critiques when they come back? May I challenge you to wrap your head around this idea of a teachable spirit and not take their words as wounds but as food for the soul?  It will change your life.

I’d like to take this moment to thank my past and present critique partners for never giving up on me and pushing me to do my best. Jill Cooper, Carla Laureano, Denise Grover Swank, Trisha Leigh, Deven Avila, Katherine Goodman, Vicki Severson, Linda Baggus, Judy Rose, Sterling Smith, and Katherine.

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