Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Drafts & Feedback: Heartache and Progress

Writing Table (American,  1795 - 1805) The Metropolitan Museum of Art

You write something. You're excited about it. You decide to share it with friends. You have different friends who reliably offer a variety of encouraging feedback - one friend always writes back enthusiastically that she loves it. Another asks you to write more! because everything you write is so great! Another one corrects your commas and a few verbs before declaring it done!

But there are the other friends, teachers or classmates who offer feedback that stings at first. Someone suggests you change the point of view. Another person recommends changing the verb tense. Someone else suggests that the story really starts to emerge at the end, meaning that you need to cut a lot and probably write even more.

It stings. Your heart hurts. Your ego hurts. You thought you were close to done and now you are feeling all mixed up about what you meant to write, what you did write and what to write now. You start to think of excuses (You never really wanted to write this anyhow. What a stupid topic! Why put any more time that you don't even have into this piece that can't possibly go somewhere?)

Congratulations! You're now in the middle of the process. It is hard - so hard! - to get the gumption to write something and share it with friends. But you shared it with certain readers because you really, truly, definitely wanted their feedback because you want to make the writing as strong as possible.

I know, it is hard to swallow the feedback sometimes. Sometimes the feedback feels right and you follow the advice. Sometimes it doesn't feel right, but you realize you can't exactly stand behind what you wrote and you need to make some edits even if you're not sure which ones yet. Sometimes a draft really is a part of the overall writing practice and isn't something that needs to be edited, but you learned a lot during the process.

To use some friendly cliches, writing takes a very thin skin to create and a very thick skin to manage the editing process, feedback and submitting. I'm here to remind you that you can do this. You can stick with it - you already have for this long, right? - and keep trying.

Continue to write, share and consider the feedback. And write, revise, edit and write some more. Read a whole lot, too, and think about what you've read in terms of your own writing.

True and personal story: I fell in love with my husband when he gave me some honest feedback on a poem. He didn't know why something didn't work, but he noted which section of a poem fell flat for him. Sure, my ego and feelings were hurt, but I knew I could trust him to both be honest and honor my work by taking it seriously.

Keep sharing your writing and value all the readers - the ones who love you and your work unconditionally to encourage you to keep going and the ones who give you more concrete, sometimes difficult feedback that makes you a better writer. They are all a part of your tribe.

And keep writing!




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