The Extremities Of The Feedback Loop

Welcome back folks.
Very soon I will update with things such as “where the heck have you been?”. For now, I’ll just say – here, there and everywhere. Life has thrown a couple of curve balls at me, so I decided to make Lemonade. Or something to that effect.
I wanted to say a few words today, about the writing experience as I’ve witnessed it with other writers, as well as myself.
As a participant in writers groups, workshops and other such forums, one thing was always clear to me. No matter what kind of feedback one receives for one’s writing, it’s up to the writer to decide what to do with it. It sounds simple. Trivial even. But it is not as simple as it sounds to many writers, especially in the early stages of writing.
There are many kinds of feedback one can expect to get. In my world, the only rule is – discuss the writing, not the writer. Of course, honesty is appreciated, though cannot be expected. Which is part of the problem I’d like to talk about here.
Many writers are quite sensitive about their writing (speaking from personal experience here…) and it takes time for some to develop thicker skin, or as it really should be called – willingness to receive criticism.
Otherwise, we may fall into the trap I call the feedback loop.
What is this loop? It’s the cycle of feedback and response, that traps certain writers in an unproductive situation.
There are two types of feedback and responses that create this loop (as far as I can tell at this point in time):
  • The biased feedback: The kind you get from your family and close friends who are either afraid to hurt your feelings, or simply not equipped to provide the kind of feedback you need.
  • The ruthless criticism: The kind that is (sometimes) given with sheer honesty and no constructive value, or simply mean-hearted feedback (which many times comes from other people not really equipped to provide the kind of feedback you need).
These are the types of feedback that may start this loop, but the response is more important to the creation of this predicament.
Let’s discuss the second type first. What happens when we receive negative feedback? Well, for most of us, this is an unpleasant situation, and we deal with it in different ways. When we receive feedback that may be important, even if it comes in a negative way, mean even, what do we do? What I’ve noticed with quite a few writers is that they tend to respond to this in one of two ways – A “reboot” or complete “shutdown“.
Reboot, as in “Oh, you don’t like it? Here, let me throw all this garbage in the bin and start all over from scratch.”
Shutdown, as in “I’m no damn good. What was I thinking? I better find another hobby. Perhaps Macrame.”
What good came out of either one? The writer either gives up, and we may lose a few very good books sometime down the line, or, the writer may start something new, without learning what was wrong with the previous piece of work – which could have turned into something really good.
Not productive.
The second type of feedback loop starts with the biased criticism which, to certain writers, mean – good job! keep doing exactly what you’re doing.
This, of course does not teach us anything. Nobody’s prefect. A first draft isn’t call “first” without the expectation of having – at the very least – a second. It’s not called final, is it?
The result is at the best of scenarios – a completed draft that is far from where it could have been. In most cases, it leads to the never-ending writing of a never finished product.
Not productive.
So what do we do?
Before getting feedback on something I wrote, I ask myself – what’s the worst that can happen?
The worst that can happen is either hearing “Great job! I wouldn’t change anything! It’s perfect! You’re such a good writer!” or getting verbally abused for an hour about what a horrific piece of junk I just scribbled.
Either way – it is up to me to decide what to do next. So many questions are available to us in order to qualify the feedback we receive. Who provided this feedback? What is my opinion about his qualification to criticize? Have I received good feedback in the past from this person? Was it constructive? There are many more, and of course we need to ask and answer these honestly, otherwise we’re cheating no one but ourselves off a chance to make our work better.
Whatever we choose to do next, whether it’s to make changes to our work based on the feedback, or to ignore it all together, we must make the choice to be productive. Writing as a hobby is just nice and dandy, but if your goal is to publish something, this thing needs to be written.
  • Did you ever get one of these types of feedback?
  • How did you handle it?
  • Any other advice on how to avoid this trap?
Until next time,

5 Tough Decisions Facing Fiction Writers (Guest Post – Christina Ranallo)

Hello everyone,
I will be back on a somewhat regular basis soon. Currently there is a combination of a lot of work, a lot of writing (Yay me!) and some really big changes, which I will share in due time…
The next couple of weeks will be all about MMA, with 3 great cards to predict and dissect. After that, I hope to have something special (I’ll “tease” that soon). This week…
This week, this week, I want to share a post written by my writing coach Christina Ranallo (See the original and more at penpaperwrite):

Continue reading

Just a little of that human touch

Welcome back folks, nice to see you again.

I was contemplating what my next post might be and the more I thought, the more I realized that there’s just so much in this world that bores me… Don’t get me wrong, I’m a curious guy and there’s a lot of things to marvel at. But while resting my head on the pillow last night, something crystallized somewhere in that gray matter box. Continue reading

You get a 100!

Woo Hoo! This makes it a hundred “Hellos” and “Welcomes” to my humble virtuabode 🙂

Huzzah! It's the 100th post! Continue reading