Workshop 101: Feedback and Grains of Salt

Feedback was a new experience for me when I started going to my writing group. My creative writing classes weren’t at a point where we’d done critiquing yet. I’ve never been very good at taking critiquing advice with a single grain of salt. This is most likely related to my problem of over-salting food when using something other than standard table salt. I am too inclined to listen to feedback.

When I was submitting pieces online, it was easier. I prefaced every submission with key issues or concerns I had. I think that A) helped steer the feedback, and B) showed that I was aware of its current problems. Usually my writing group would give me things I had not mentioned, or they would put some of my concerns to rest. But that was also feedback. If I felt something was wrong and they didn’t, why did it have the appearance of working without giving me, the author, satisfaction?

Because I’ve had writing groups in classes and I’ve attended one with friends, I came to rely on outside feedback too much, and value the opinion of other people over my own writing ability. That is dangerous, and my writing drive and ability got lost in the opinions of others. Some loved it, some didn’t think it worked at all, some wanted me to spoon-feed. Well…I can’t pull my work in that many directions. It would tear in the pulling process.

Then there’s the people who forget to add salt to their poison: those with the inability to accept feedback. Someone reads it, mentions a problem, and their concern is completely disregarded. I have a feeling anyone who draws attention a problem is someone with at least a little experience. If they don’t have experience, they’re going to tell you it’s just awesome and yay and double rainbows! What’s it going to hurt to give their feedback a chance? Is it really going to destroy the integrity of your work, or will it—in the end—strengthen it?

Feedback is important, assuming you want to publish. If you’re writing just for the fun of writing, who cares? It’s your writing and if it’s meant for yourself, you only need to please yourself. If you want to publish, guess what? It’s going to have to please and appeal to more people than just yourself. Should your piece get lost in the feedback? No. Trust me, take too much advice and you don’t want to write anymore. But when your feedback becomes about trimming down, making it ready for an editor, or embracing the advice of an editor, it’ll be time to embrace and be grateful for the advice.

4 Comments on “Workshop 101: Feedback and Grains of Salt

  1. The thing about feedback is, it’s all about ego and it’s about learning what’s helpful to you and what’s not. I’ve had enough workshops (and my workshop/critiquing started in my very first CW class in undergrad) where another person’s “feedback” is completely off the mark. Like, so unrelated. The problem in classroom workshops is the mingling of writing styles and POVs. Now I’m not saying having different viewpoints is bad, but you have to have people who have some sort of authority in your genre or style.

    I think that was my biggest problem with regards to deciding to do a YA novel as my thesis. If I could go back and do it again, I would do it differently.

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