Friday, June 11, 2010

Writing Feedback

Three years ago, when I began a yearlong sabbatical from the 8-4 life of teaching to focus more intensively on writing, I hadn't anticipated the isolating task of self-disciplined study. 

Writing is primarily a solo endeavor. The words are our own. But most often our work thrives from the reflection of others during the painstaking process.

Like the acknowledgments at the back of each book, every piece I've ever finished - and certainly published - owes its success to feedback from others. Whether with a class, a writing group, or a writing coach/editor, deadlines keep me accountable to my goals. Commenting on others' work through all the stages of writing clarifies problems and solutions in the writing process. 

Receiving critique can teach you to risk exposure and return to the drawing board for revisions. Witnessing the immediate impact of your words on readers can motivate you to keep at it. It helps to ask specifically for what you need: Emotional resonance? Grammatical editing? Structural help?

A word of warning: Be selective about who reads your works in progress, and decide when you're ready for exposure. When I presented an essay to my then new girlfriend who called it 'naive', I was reluctant to share more. But on further reflection I realized she was right - and honest. Now she's my strongest champion. I know I can rely on her enthusiasm when the writing works, and I trust her to tell me the truth when it doesn't.

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