On Feedback

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Submitting your work for feedback or critique can be a scary affair—An affair that demands you build a thick skin. However scary, it’s necessary that a writer takes this leap to have their work read by others. Not only does it help the writer make their work stronger but it also helps to flesh out characters, make world building more convincing, and check for comma splices. The thicker skin is necessary for going out into the publishing world, for reading reviews on Amazon, and for facing trolls on Twitter.

My main concern in receiving feedback is figuring out which comments are important for me to consider to help make my story better and which are not. I took Fiction Fundamentals (Eng 529) last semester—a wonderful course that helped me build a short story. We went through several rounds of work-shopping and critique as we built our stories. Going into the last workshop, I was very proud of the story I had written. During the workshop, however, many changes were suggested. As a result, I made every change my classmates suggested before submitting the story. In going back and reading it again, I realized that by taking every suggestion I actually made my story weak.  I decided to go back to an earlier version and make edits more judiciously. I learned an important lesson: writers need to stay true to themselves and their work throughout the writing process. Responding effectively to a writer’s workshop requires an open and confident mind. You do not have to make every change that is proposed to you in work-shopping. This is your work and you have to stand behind it. Accept changes that go along with the story you are telling.

A deep breath is required before going into a workshop session, especially when they are focusing on your writing. You should whisper this mantra throughout: “This is not a personal attack.  This is not a personal attack. This is not a personal attack.” Once you have your feedback you have to search through it, trying out each suggestion to see if it makes your writing stronger. If it makes your writing stronger, keep it. I usually end up with many versions of the same work while trying out the different suggestions, then bring together those changes I accept into one file. After going through all the changes and throwing out those things that do not help your story or writing, it’s time to look at grammatical suggestions. These are the changes you should accept. and keep.  I should know, I’m the comma splice queen and I need to be exiled. After I’m finished with this process, I generally send my work to a friend who is a much better writer than I am for more suggestions.

After 20 years in the graphic design world, I have developed a thick skin concerning critique of my work. Calling your work your “baby” is beaten out of you in design school, but here, here the students are extremely gracious, so no beatings have taken place in this program.  The well thought out work-shopping philosophy of the school is a major reason for that and a real benefit of the program. I generally feel safe sharing my work within our ‘classroom’ space—something for which I am extremely grateful.

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