Receiving feedback

In line with our post on giving feedback, let’s consider how to receive feedback.

Too often, writers lash out at those who want to help them or, just as badly, they smile and nod and let the remarks they’re receiving fall into the moat they’ve dug around their writing.

Writing is not the same as therapy. In joining a workshop, or in approaching a service like ours, you’re not looking for people who’ll prop you up with blind praise.

Is your goal to be as good a writer as possible?

For now, put your publishing worries to one side, since they are beyond your control. Even if you can’t completely ignore them, focusing on writing as good a book as possible will maximise your chances of getting there, without nearly as much of the anxiety. It is a dominant strategy.

To improve as a writer, you’re looking to encourage great feedback. You want constructive feedback, that brings abstracts back to concretes, and offers solutions.

There’s a simple way to get there: ask the right questions, help your writing group attendees improve their feedback. Ask them how you could address their concerns, or how you could improve your piece/paragraph/sentence, and listen to what they have to say. When they come up with an abstract criticism, ask them to point out  where in the text they felt as they felt, and ask them how you could fix it. And when you get what they’re trying to say, show them that you understand. Thanking them is nice, but what they really want is to know that the work they’re putting into your writing isn’t for naught.

Once they see that you’re really engaging with what they have to say, that you’re not one of those writers, that you’re addressing (at least some of) their concerns, then you’ll notice that they’ll work harder for you and give your prose more thought.

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