How feedback is ruining your writing– and what to do about it
Sound check. ReeeeeeEEEEEEEE.
You know the squealing noise where everyone reaches up to cover his or her ears?
The irony of the double-entendre is not lost on me. We seek out feedback on our writing– create workshops for that express purpose– and yet at times that feedback can be the very thing that gets in the way of our writing success.
The often-repeated phrase: too many cooks spoil the broth, applies when we receive an overwhelming number of responses to our writing. Once we’ve solicited a lot of feedback, it can be difficult to figure out which voices to listen to for the final direction of the piece.
The problem, oftentimes, though isn’t the feedback itself, but the timing of the feedback.
For every part of the writing process, there is a season, and the act of creation is as separate and distinct from the act of polishing and revision, as spring is from fall.
Confusing these two can be detrimental to a writing piece, but all is not lost.
Let’s understand what’s really going on.
When we’ve gotten feedback too soon, it’s hard to return to our creative self and really tune in to the creative needs of the story. To get back into creative flow, we need to get ourselves out of critique mode and into creative mode.
How can we do this? Let’s say you’ve been part of a feedback conversation that sounds like this:
“I really think your character should do X.”
“No, he should do Y.”
“It doesn’t make sense for him to do what you’ve written, you should…”
Sound familiar? This is a piece that’s been workshopped too soon.
It’s time to sit down and have a conversation with the character– no really. If you want to write it out– fine. If you want to talk it out–great. If you want to go for a walk with your character–ok. The point is: it’s time for some quality Q&A.
Start the conversation with your character like this:
What did you do?
Why did you do that?
What did you want? Did you get what you wanted?
As you start this “conversation” with the character, allow him to speak in his own voice as you write or listen, and you’ll get back on track with where the story is meant to go. The point is to get back into the mode of creation, without judgment, critique, or the shadow of anyone’s feedback.
The story and all of its elements– character, motivation, sequencing–needs to stay true to itself in order to read as authentic.
If you’re meeting someone else’s needs in the creative phase, your story will sound contrived, and it won’t sit right with you.
Once you’ve gotten back into the creative phase, you can get the story back on track.
It is also possible that not only was your piece workshopped too soon, but the feedback wasn’t the best to help your piece move forward.
Stay tuned for the next post on how to solicit the best feedback from the get go, and how to know the moment when your piece is ready to share.
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