The Importance of Feedback

feedback

How do you know your writing is good?

A straight forward question and yet I imagine like a lot of bloggers and unpublished writers there isn’t that feedback loop of royalties letting you know that at least someone thinks you write well. My only but hugely appreciated readers so far are friends, family and online personas.

As a writer it’s imperative to feel out whether you have written work that deserves eyes to see it, or if it’s best kept for self amusement.

The trouble with all of the aforementioned critics is they are all biased. Apart from my Dad, who will happily go to town with the red font on a Word document I’ve sent him. Friends and family generally don’t give feedback beyond “That was really good”. If you’re anything like me you want something extra beyond a “good” – a sign they’ve noticed that line you egotistically love every time you reread a story. A hint of the underlying mechanics, anything really.

I’m not saying feedback isn’t positively received, I just mean that generally, readers as opposed to writers don’t tend to venture beyond “That was really great”.

feed bag

So, it’s a peculiar microcosm to be in as a writer. Generally you know yourself if something is good, but again there’s the bias to maintain self-esteem, like friends and family do. The performance criterion you set yourself clearly impacts on your output. Yet we never truly know the worth of our writing. Even when 10 publishing houses reject a manuscript – does that mean it’s shit? No.

I think we are tortured a bit by this lack of knowing, of total reassurance. Maybe it’s a creative trait. Maybe that’s why novellists to artists throw things out, burn them and leave them to rot.

What’s your measuring stick?

12 Comments

  1. I got your e-mail that you are following my blog. I hope you like my stories and find them interesting. I agree that I don’t need yes men but I do not really need negative evaluations of my work either. I really like putting my material out there and if some people like it, great, if not I really figure it is not there cup of tea. I never cared for James Joyce and quite a few others I was forced to read as I went to school. Truthfully I do not think they cared either. But then again Joyce, Thomas Hardy and the rest are dead. Would they be so successful in today’s market? Probably not. At any rate let me know what you think and I will take it under advisement. I am honored that you are following my blog and will reciprocate.

  2. An honest write about the dilemma all writers face. Getting a sincere opinion on your piece cannot be expected from family and friends – as you said, they are biased.

    If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to seek out a writer’s group in your area, or consider one of the many online critiquing forums for writers. You’ll be getting feedback from writers, and of course, all writers worth their salt read a lot. Often, you not only get candid feedback, but it’s well based and elaborates on ideas as to how you could improve the piece. Sometimes, you just get some mean little cretin saying, “this sucks,” but they are rare and easily discounted.

    Splinter4all.com is relaxed and friendly, and I’m an active member there. If you join, look me up – MitchLav.

    Critiquecircle.com is much more formal, and works off of a points system where you get points when you comment on some else’s work, spend points to post work, but I’ve got some excellent, unbiased feedback here.

    That’s only two – there are many more. Do keep in mind though – you may get feedback that isn’t all positive and may hurt a little. But how can any of us improve unless we know what we are doing wrong? No pain, no gain as the old saying goes.

    As for this post – I thought it was sincere, and addresses the isolated environment that writers face. Simply, we’ve got to get out more. 😉

    I wish you all the best.

    ML

  3. Hey, thanks for the follow!

    This line in your post really caught my attention: “it’s imperative to feel out whether you have written work that deserves eyes to see it.” Without specifying which eyes, you leave it up to the writer to decide who it is who deserves to–or who needs to–read what you’ve written. I’m hoping to get my work in front of a lot of young adult and college age eyes someday…

    By the way, I liked “Answer the Black Telephone.” Way to go, putting your writing out there! Keep it up.

  4. I completely understand and agree with your statement on people not going any higher than “it’s good”. However, I believe my validation came when I had an employee at the Washington Post print one story I need to finished called “The Terror”. She knew my wife and when she got a hold of my short story manuscript it was published in the Washington Post magazine, which my wife has the article. That was the time that my writing had reached a new level of significance. Up until the employee got fired, for something unrelated, she was working on getting me a book deal and contracts. Unfortunately, all that had to stop, but I at least know what I am capable of.

    1. That’s great, hopefully things will work out with a book deal. I can imagine that seeing something you wrote in print really puts it in perspective. Must be a great feeling.

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