on feedback

I’ve been getting quite a lot of feedback lately – some confidence-destroying, some very encouraging, some useful, some not really to the point.

It all affects me.

Which has made me think and get all existential. See, this is where thinking led me: It’s all just someone’s opinion, informed by their experience and tastes. We all know that. There is no golden standard of good writing, against which our paltry offerings will never measure up.

But it’s also very clear that my writing is equally biassed – just a bunch of things I made up, informed by my experience and tastes. There is no truth within my writing, but what I decide.

So the real trick with feedback, it seems to me, is this:

Use feedback as objects in the vast, treacherous ocean that is novel writing. Land and rest at those that uphold you. Recharge and shove off revitalised from those that encourage you. Rethink your strategy on those that make useful critique of your game plan.

Rise up and recover from those that pull you under without warning.

Because the thing is: feedback is only useful as far as it gets you where you’re going. So use it like that.

It’s naive to ignore useful feedback just because it’s not what you want to hear. It’s tragic to give up because you think feedback is anything other than a tool on your journey.

Be courageous, open and generous in the face of it. Is the conclusion I came to.

For a brilliant essay on this topic – including a scientific experiment using rats and hidden islands – go here.

Comments 2 Responses

  1. Cheryl Nekvapil

    Ouch — be brave Annii; it sounds as though that feedback was a bit rough; like life, but worse because it’s imagination not stuff that’s negotiable in the day-to-day of life. Precarious, precious, unknown, risky and very personal and universal. Probably like the rough seas of finally getting a book out there and then there are the critics and fans and sales that go well or not. You artists are real cultural adventurers and entrepreneurs for those of us who sit privately at home and have opinions! Three cheers for the brave!

    1. anna cowan Post author

      🙂 oops, I didn’t mean this to come across as a whinge or a terrible thing. I was in much more of philosophical/encouraging frame of mind.

      But you are right! Us creative types put a lot on the line!

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