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Getting Feedback

But in a little while it may strike you as a small miracle that you have someone in your life,…

But in a little while it may strike you as a small miracle that you have someone in your life, whose taste you admire (after all, this person loves you and your work), who will tell you the truth and help you stay on the straight and narrow, or help you find your way if you are lost.
Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott

I used to be very shy about my writing and never allowed anyone to read what I’d written. Subconsciously, by not letting anyone see my work, I felt that there was no way I could hear that it was “bad.” However, after a while, my writing was stuck in a rut and I couldn’t get anywhere with my creative work. Finally summoning up the courage, I sent one of my poems to a writing friend of mine to ask his opinion. He didn’t like it that much, offering some suggestions of what he thought it was missing. And that was fantastic! At that point, I recognized his criticisms as sincere suggestions and I thought about them in depth, but I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly lost all skill as a writer. To the contrary, I had fuel for how to improve my work.

Finding someone to give you good feedback is crucial to improving your writing, but it’s also important to find someone who will give you genuine and honest feedback. As nice as it may feel, asking a friend who’s afraid to hurt your feelings and will only say good things about your work won’t help you to improve, to grow through any challenges you may be coming across as a writer. Good feedback sees both where you are right now and beyond to your potential.

What does good feedback entail? It recognizes the positive, acknowledges your weak spots, and offers suggestions for improvement. Above all, honesty is key. When looking for the right person to give you feedback on your work, it may not be your best friend, your spouse, or your siblings. Instead, it should be a fellow writer you admire, a friend who never holds back his or her true feelings, or even a teacher. The goal of feedback isn’t to get validation that you’re a good writer (you are!), but to push you to improvement.

Daily Posters, how do you know when you’re getting good feedback? What about giving it?

47 Comments

  1. How right you are about needing GOOD feedback. Friends and family, while sometimes quite honest with you, typically will tell you that you are fabulous and wonderful. I belong to a couple artsy groups and while most of the time we are generous with compliments and such, every now and then we will deliberately have a meeting where it is a critique session. Where you will get Actual feedback and ideas and information to hopefully help you move forward. The key is that we go to that meeting with that expectation. And that makes a big difference.

  2. Feedback is constructive when the giver remains objective and provide examples. Comments should never be directed at the person. But contructive feedback is only useful when the recipient accepts it without taking offense. Sometimes I have the feeling that some fiction writers/ bloggers, do not want any feedback on their work. Likes and praises are fine but anything else is greeted with a defensive retort. That is why I reserve my feedback for those, who seek it. After all, it is time consuming work to read a piece in such detail in order to critic it. :-) Thank you for the post. Wish you a nice day. Cheers!

    1. Agreed. I think it’s important to make sure that feedback is wanted or that the person receiving feedback is prepared so that they don’t feel defensive. After all, writing is usually pretty personal :)

  3. Erika,

    Thank you for well written post! The words you choose opened my mind! I have understanding and appreciation for what healthy feedback is and is not! It sort of parallels with healthy correction.

    Thank you!

  4. Feedback can at best offer a different perspective on the text, however it should only be taken as a hint of what other possibilities are available. And definitely not to the point that it should influence the context. if we are capable of processing millions of pieces of information through our neural pathways, then giving feedback is similar to a group of people with blankets over their heads walking around a room in the dark making noises through a hole in their face. Does It really matter if you are happy doing what you love doing.
    oceans of love to all of you my friends.

    1. And definitely not to the point that it should influence the context.

      Definitely. Feedback is good, but not if it makes you feel like you need to change your vision or method at your own expense. It should act as an enhancement :)

  5. In one online writing course I took previously, we spent a whole week learning how to provide and receive peer feedback. It was a really useful exercise. During the course, we also provided feedback on other students’ work, and I have to admit it’s not an easy thing to do. But it was well worth the effort. I think it’s important that feedback is constructive, meaning it highlights both strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, how a piece of writing can be improved. I find this type of feedback extremely valuable, but it is hard to come by and can be time consuming to provide. That’s why writers’ (or artists’) groups are a great idea.

    1. I love the fact that you spent a week learning to provide and receive peer feedback. I’ll bet that’s a great group because of it.

  6. Feedback, is another person’s report of one’s work, whether support, or criticism. This provides a basis for evaluation, on which step-by-step plan for improvement, can be subsequently based. They offer avenues, to bring changes, improvements, new ideas for future’s purpose, and could even solve personal problems that recur, through proper record-keeping. Reader’s comments, as feedback could support “a writer/blogger”, like myself, to progress, in just a while. The message was great. Thank you.

  7. Completely agree with you. Feedback is complicated. To give it and to receive it can be a big challenge. Thanks for encouraging me to seek feedback again. So how wants to check on my blog ;)

  8. Great post. I’m definitely very careful with who I ask to give me feedback, but I’ve been lucky in the fact that my best friends are also my best critics. They are open and honest and have a way of framing their criticisms so that it’s not offensive. I trust them completely. Of course with feedback you don’t have to change everything, but it gives you something to consider and their suggestions always improve my work in some way.

    I’ve also learned that before you listen to/read what they have to say that it’s important to be in an open state of mind or else even the best suggestions sound like jabs.

  9. Wow .. this is so true. I used to feel the exact same way, until I became a professional writer and had seasoned editors constructively criticizing my work. Feedback is essential to getting better at anything.
    As a side note, like you, I would never let people read my personal work, mainly because I didn’t think it was any good. So I would write them and file them away where they might not ever be seen again. I just recently found a notebook of things I had written about ten years ago, and I was surprised at how good it was. And for me to say that about my own work, it must be good, because I tend to be my own worse critic.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree, genuine feedback is the only way to ensure continual growth and development as a writer. What a worthy post for your blog.

  11. Really nice post, i required such feedback on my story when I put them on my blog. Today anyone who comes by my blog, puts a comment like, ” awesome”, ” nice, loved it ” etc.
    all this has done to me is that I’AM JUST INCREASING THE ADJECTIVES IN MY MIND.:)
    And also how to appretiate one without really going through his work and appretiating…

  12. I love both getting and giving feedback, but I think it’s impprtant to be asked first – some people aren’t ready for critique on thier work. Note, I said critique, not criticism, there is a huge difference. But if someone asks me for an honest critique, that is what I’ll give them.

  13. Great topic, thank you. Since my blog showcases my photographies, I expect that feedback differs from the feedback you get when posting texts: It is often difficlt to put into words what appeals to you in a picture.
    Giving feedback, I usually try to say what I specifically like in a picture (the colours, the composition, the ideas it evokes). I do so because I realized that for me, the best feedback has many of these elements – but I also like people to simply tell me what they see (or don’t see) in a picture, and how they try to come to terms, ‘reading’ it. These reactions tell me if a picture works the way I wanted it to – or in a way I like but did not think of.
    ‘Constructive criticism’ is a different cup of tea: Some people would say that solid black shadows should best be avoided, the horizon should be straight, the main subject should not be in the middle. But firstly, these rules do not always apply. And secondly I am not a teacher…

  14. Interesting post. I’m always open to feedback, some feedback is better than others, but I think the more people the ask, the better the idea one can form of a general opinion on your work.

  15. I know I’m getting good feedback when it keeps me level-headed about my piece– inflating an ego is a nice feeling, but constructive criticism is more useful!

  16. I enjoyed your post, you make many important points. The Golden Rule is a good guideline to follow when expressing our ideas. Feedback should be the art of pursuasion, urging the good work to become better! It is a gift to be offered and received with warmth and excitement, and always with gentle honesty. Thank you for your post.

  17. Fabulous post Erika! I feel Feedback is always necessary whether positive or negative which we, as the writer or blogger should always remember that the feedback are primarily a viewpoint, opinion, personal experience etc… I’m always interested in understanding another’s contemplations.
    Keep posting and we are behind you !
    Bless you dear

    1. I have the same problem at times. Giving good feedback is a skill in and of itself, as well! I think you’ve given me a new post idea ;)

  18. There is a huge difference between giving in-depth feedback on a piece of writing, and a quick comment on a blog post. Anyone wanting serious comments about their work is unlikely to seek it from a passing blogger who they know little about.

    I have given feedback for other people, but that was a relationship built up via forums and chat rooms – totally different.

    In blog terms, I will however comment specifically if I think someone has written a thought-provoking post that has raised important issues, if something is particularly witty/funny/made me laugh whatever, or if a particular photograph takes my eye.

    I’m hardly going to say to someone who I don’t know, ‘did you think about x, y and z?’ And I think that is the serious difference between being asked to critique someone’s work, identifying the successes, what may be missing, and saying how the piece made you feel.

    I have seen blog posts (only recently) where I was so tempted to say ‘what a load of tosh’ – but that’s just downright rude and discourteous.

    The other useful form of feedback on blogs, is reblogging, when someone thinks your post is worthwhile repeating to a different audience and I try to do that from time to time, a blogroll with links and descriptions of someone’s blog (ie you basically think it is interesting enough for whatever reason to visit regularly), and pingbacks. Less so awards, but they have their good sides when they highlight other blogs.

    I knew I should have made this comment into a blog post :D

  19. Great post and good comments. I especially like the distinction between “critique” and “criticism”. I’ve been in writing groups (in person) where someone just decides to attack me (the group leader actually had to step in).

    It’s important to feel mutual respect and have that reflected in the critiquing. Sometimes it is hard to find that when your writing is at different levels.

    Good for you for getting the courage to do it…and lucky you for finding someone who was truly helpful.

  20. I emailed a writer friend to ask her to critique my work. She didn’t ever get back to me, so I asked my husband a few days later for help. I thought maybe this would be a bad idea, since his opinion matters most to me, but he gave very helpful criticism! I’m thankful I asked! Great post!

  21. Great feedback is motivating, and when the reviewer gets me to think a different way about the way I’m trying to code, write, create something – well, that’s just gold. That type of feedback will almost encourage me to re/build/write/code what they had just reviewed.

  22. I’ve left a couple of polite, but honest, remarks in reference to other people’s work. I feel like I may have hurt their feelings, which would never be my intent. However, it is better to get constructive criticism from someone like me, than a potential publisher, I would think. I’ve come to a point where I hesitate to leave any comment at all in an effort to avoid hurting someone. On the flip side, I welcome any and all remarks. If I don’t agree with someone on their views of my work, I let it pass. On the same token, I would not want to deny myself some of the valid ideas that others might share with me standing on the outside looking into my world. There is always bad to be taken with the good.

  23. This was a great post. I often find that most people are eager to provide positive feedback when they read a good piece, but tend to enforce the “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rule when reading something that doesn’t quite stack up. Maybe then, silence can also be considered a form of feedback?
    Though as a new blogger, I would certainly benefit more from the louder kind!

  24. I would love to receive more feedback on my writing but don’t currently have a consistent source for that. Many people as me for critique of their writing, and I always try to be honest but also encouraging. I’m hoping to find that type of source soon for writing input.

  25. sure, we need people to look at our work and give comments.The only disadvange to our wish is that Today”s writers seem to have time no to spend on peoples Posts.It is as if the burden of looking at their daily economic problems is overwhelming.

  26. Grammy*

    When Grammy died I remember still
    The chat we had when she was ill
    Of things we gather through the years
    Wants and needs whispered in our ears.

    Things gather dust get moved around
    We chuck out what we once found
    Those objects that we never use
    We bought delighted when we choose.

    Our wants out way our life’s needs,
    Life is destroyed when cancer succeeds
    Life is precious, even if we plead.
    Material thoughts have no need.

    Grammy said how futile we become
    Our wants and needs just don’t belong.
    We may not see the hoard piled up.
    Lying beneath a inch of dust.

    Then at the end when all is spent
    When life moves to the very end
    Grammy gave some good advice
    Remember, most important is life.

    Some keep the spirit in their soul.
    Some don’t believe, leave well alone.
    Some never cared and never would
    Some fill their hearts with only good.

    Some choose the Lord all life long
    The Lord’s light makes them strong
    Others are good but don’t believe
    Others think life is all they achieve.

    When life has gone and at the end
    There is no choice, we cannot spend
    What we did in life will now be viewed?
    Were you a help or rude and crude.

    The chains you built down here on earth
    Choosing a deceitful life the devil’s mirth

    Our lives are proof down here on earth
    A challenge to meet our Lords worth.

    Believing was the key to Heaven’s gate.
    Grammy knew through her great faith.
    Life is hard a challenge which sways
    We all suffer the stress and strain.

    Grammy knew what hid behind the veil
    Her faith was strong although she was frail.
    She slipped away and many cried when she died.
    Now her smile is the love she finds right now.

    Written by Susan Oliver.

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