When I think back to the early stages of my work negative feedback had no place in my home. Trust me, you wouldn’t find a welcome mat anywhere.
How can they not love this, I would shout. My work is solid! Perfect! An outstanding piece of first draft mumbo jumbo!
Yes, I was one of those. I also cried a lot in my crib.
I am Mozart!
Being under the illusion that all of my first drafts were glorious it is now clear that the beginner version of me was headed straight into a concrete wall minus a helmet.
The other problem I had was watching the wonderful movie Amadeus one to many times. If Mozart could nail it in one try why not I?
Yes. I was comparing my writing to Mozart’s genius. Jokes are welcomed.
How can you hate me?
Around this time I belonged to an on-line critique group. I had yet to submit my work as I was enjoying the early stages of critiquing others but when the time came to submit a story you can guess my surprise when the comments rolled in.
Convinced nobody ‘got it’ I moved on and added other stories along the same line, convinced again that this was a one-time thing.
Speak up, I can’t hear you
Listening is a skill. Sure, we all listen but not all of us apply what we hear. With that in mind it didn’t take long for me to realize I had a lot to learn in the listening department.
As time went on and my visions of being the writing version of Mozart evaporated, I came to the conclusion that if one was to survive this art known as writing your tail off one had to perfect their listening skills when bad feedback occurred.
As I slowly learned the art of handling a tough critique I learned something just as valuable: How to give one as well.
Applying tough love
For as hard as it can be to receive, it can be equally as hard to give. I’m pretty sure empathy had a lot to do with it. Who wants hurt feelings?
But a writer needs to know if something doesn’t work and I knew a writer had to listen the same way I did. Good old tough love.
The most important lesson I learned when giving negative feedback was the beginning of their work. The writer is nervous. They want to hear the feedback but at the same time they don’t.
One of the tricks I learned from the experts was to open with a positive. I would point out an excellent piece in the early part of their work and highlight it. I explained how it stood out and moved the story forward.
From there I would gradually go to the center of their story where I felt it needed the most work and slowly end my feedback on a positive note.
I don’t want to hurt you
I’ve had a lot of success with this technique mainly because it was used on me. Hearing something positive at the beginning loosened me up and gave me a feeling of trust especially later when things were pointed out that needed lots of work.
As we all know writing is tough and receiving a tough critique is not a pleasant way to spend our day. Sometimes I wonder which is harder: Giving a tough critique or receiving one.
In the end it’s another step in the right direction.