Don’t Fear the Feedback

fear-the-red-pen

Isn’t it a great feeling, after you’ve done something well, for someone to acknowledge your effort?

On the flip side, don’t you want to know if disaster is looming, so you can take action to minimize or correct it?

As an editor and writer, I’ve had to deal with how to handle criticism. The word “criticism” has an evil connotation these days so we’ll substitute “feedback.”

We all know that writing is extremely difficult work. It takes a great deal of time and effort. It requires constant thinking and analyzing. Most of the time, we pour our emotions into it.

It’s easy to understand why writers may get a little huffy when their “babies” become exposed to someone’s review. It is painful when people start picking them apart.

I’ve had writers get upset if I removed an unneeded comma, suggested a better word, or noted their development could use some work – really upset. Admittedly, in the heat of deadline battles, I may have stomped on the emotional connection between writer and piece.

When seeking and giving feedback, remember that nothing is totally abysmal. (Okay, I’ve had a few thrown-together papers that came close.) There is always something good in what someone has written. Start from that foundation and go forward with the attitude that any feedback is designed to make it better.

A good editor will resist the temptation to change everything. Honestly, there are times when I think I could make corrections to a Shakespearean sonnet. Some things just need to be left alone. However (and this is a big “however”), there must be a good reason for it.

“Because that’s the way I want it,” is not a good enough reason. Explain why you want it that way.  You’ll be surprised at how much good feedback you will get.

Lots of time we avoid asking for feedback. It’s terrifying to hand over our literary “baby” to someone else. We can almost feel our hearts contract.

Think of it as sending your child off to kindergarten. She will be okay, and she’ll learn a whole bunch of stuff in the process.

My teenaged grandson wants to write a book. In fact, he’s already written about 40 pages. One night, we sat down and talked about character and plot development. We talked about how his main character would react to certain circumstances given her background.

“I’m going to have to change a lot of things,” he said. “There’s a whole lot more to this.”

You know what was wonderful about the experience? We were so excited talking about how he could improve his story, we stayed up until 3 a.m.!

Yes, feedback can be a lot of fun. Don’t fear it!

What steps will you take today to face your feedback fears?

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Fear the Feedback

  1. Great post, Annette! Too many writers are emotionally attached to sentences.
    Yay for working together, collaborating can be such fun!
    My Steps: write the best sentence and then write more. And know that they can get better because writing is a process.
    😉

    Like

  2. Dear Annette — this falls into the "writing is agony" category — it takes as much energy as if you were trying to move a mounta

    Like

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