Click Here to Go Back to Part Two – Picking up from where we left off, I want to mention that I got some great feedback from the previous post. Twitter loved the idea of a Survival Guide for Creative People, and related to many of the challenges I’ve talked about. I’m not sure what this means overall, but I’m flattered and honored that something I did can be helpful to others.
I wrestled with a lot of ideas while creating this part of the Survival Guide. You need feedback on your writing, but how do you get it? How do you welcome feedback and (gently) reject negative feedback?
Feedback: Best Friend and Worst Nightmare
This is a difficult area for me to navigate, and perhaps it is for you, too. Too often, writers think that negative feedback is the key to better writing and yet, too much directive feedback can make you lose confidence in your own vision. How do you reconcile the feedback part of a writer’s life?
Happily, other authors have wrestled with these ideas, resulting in some great insight. Take a look at this blog post on Lithub: The Case Against Critical Feedback. In it, Lauren D. Woods shares some empathetic, actionable advice when it comes to the feedback game:
- There is an overriding belief that the way to increase performance in companies is through rigorous, frequent, candid, pervasive, and often critical feedback.
- Critics may assume that what works for them necessarily works for others, because they are more experienced, when in reality such criticism can overreach.
- Every writer I spoke with mentioned, unprompted, some writer they admired who got them—who understood their vision for writing, who rooted for them, whether it was the one teacher who really supported them, or that one person in their writing group whose feedback they looked forward to.
She’s absolutely right – authors need support, need feedback from people who *get* what they’re trying to do. Directive feedback – “Don’t do this, do this instead” – only works if you’re 150% sure this is exactly what another author should do. If you’re the critic, can you honestly say you’re coming from that level of clarity?
Negative feedback – the Whiplash school of creative development – is much more likely to turn people off and burn future authors out. Other authors, who have grown up in that model, tend to normalize the abuse. Our quick takeaway in the Survival Guide for Creative People? It’s very simple:
Having ‘good advice’ doesn’t give you the right to be mean.
Contrary to popular belief, art isn’t created out of abuse and ruthlessness. If you wouldn’t treat a new author with that level of hostility, don’t let them do it to you. You don’t have to take it. Walk away! You have the right to stick up for yourself. These folks aren’t industry gatekeepers; even if they were, that doesn’t give them the right to treat you like garbage.
The ruthlessness of creativity only comes from you pushing yourself to be the best you know you can be. Others can show you how to develop, but it can only come from an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Wrapping It Together
In conclusion, stick up for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. Now more than ever, we need to write like our lives depend on it. 2020 was nuts, and there is no guarantee about 2021. If we don’t hang together, we’re sure to hang separately.
If you’d like some more information on providing feedback, these are great resources:
- Using Directive Feedback to Improve Students’ Writing Skills
- Directive or facilitative feedback: a scale
- How to Give the Most Effective Feedback