Now that we’ve given and recieved feedback on our work, both posative and negative, what do we do with it? Well, use to to adjust our stories, or not, and consider the value of said feedback.

Do Not Automatically Dismiss or Agree with Feedback Based on Who Gave It

Feedback is important for a hundred different reasons and feedback from different people is definitely more helpful than just one or two over and over again. Yes, those chosen few can tell when the author’s voice or style is off, but they soon start to miss the same typos and errors. Before returning to school, I never showed my work to anyone until I thought it was finished.

It terrified me to think that something I wrote would be torn apart.

In fact, I hardly ever showed anything to anyone, besides my husband and a few other first readers, until I started my undergraduate degree. That’s back when it was easy for me to write. Then something happened. I took all my stories and jammed them into a collection, then self-published it without any external feedback. Huge mistake. It has typos and grammar issues, tense changes, everything that could go wrong did and I never noticed it. There was no one to point them out to me. But, I’ve learned from the experience, so when it was time to start work shopping in this program, I was ready and willing. I knew that I was going to need help, that others would see what I could not, and maybe they would even be able to help me answer some of the world-building questions I had. Everything went well for a while. I received constructive feedback from both professors and other students. I received encouragement and support. I received honesty and tried my hardest to give back all that same respect.

            Until someone just could not leave me alone.

They dumped all their negativity on me and my work, becoming the bane of my writing. I found myself second guessing even while I was trying to get ideas on paper. My thesis stalled, my creativity waned, and I was a step away from throwing in the towel. I had a first-hand experience with the pain of repeated hurtful, poorly worded, and unprofessional feedback.

I still get the shakes once or twice a week when I sit down to write, nervous that what I’m saying is going to be ripped to shreds before I can even make it passable. But I know that the person who acted that way no longer has access to my work. Sometimes I look back over the feedback that I’ve received from a couple of profssors. It gives me strength and makes me smile, remembering how into my project each one was and how I was told I am too smart a writer to let silly mistakes hold me down. Then I move on, write my words and leave them as they are for later editing.

            No more second guessing.

            Overall, the workshopping experience and the feedback that it provided has been pretty helpful for my thesis. As I mentioned, others have made suggestions that have helped me to fill in some of the gaps in my story. Feedback has informed some of my decisions on how to proceed through scenes, what to address in the novel, and how to write it effectively. Most of the feedback that I’ve received has been helpful, thought provoking, and supportive.

Before this time last year, I hadn’t written an outline since high school. Now I’ve revised the same one four times. I hadn’t ever done a storyboard either. Now there’s one staring at me from across my office, covered in character-color-coded sticky notes. I’ve never written a novel before and now I plan on writing at least two more to follow the thesis. Going forward, I’ll be showing my work to more people and seeking out feedback before the work is completed in order to help me tell a better story. I can’t catch all those little bumps, can’t see the inconsistencies, because I am the author of the story. I’m just too close to the project. Even if I were to put it down for months, there would still be something I would miss and will need others to help make the best of the world I’m creating.

I feel like I survive the worst of it, that there isn’t really anything else that someone could do to make me feel any more terrible about my writing. And because of that experience, I can move forward stronger, knowing that my story can grow, can thrive, even in the eyes of negative feedback. I know that one person can ruin everything, but only if we let them. I didn’t let it happen, received support, and am stronger for it. My work will keep going and I will keep writing and I will continue to seek constructive feedback.

Constructive does not mean all sugar and merry merry, but helpful is better than hateful.

If reviewers during the writing process cannot provide that sort of feedback, my work and I no longer need their input. Simple as that

The books that come after will be informed by that help and what we, the books and I, can find outside school. My fears were overcome, then resurfaced, and are working their way back down. Logic will win out. My stories need help, just like everyone’s do. I know it and accept it.

All I want is to help other’s tell their own best stories and to tell mine. I know that there’s so many people out there that feel the same way. In order to give the best help, I’m going to have to accept it from others, take it with a grain of salt, and understand that for the most part, they are just trying to help me tell my own best story.             

Remember: You Are The Keeper of Your Story. If the Feedback Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Use It

~Sarah

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