Monday, January 19, 2015

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Feedback

My own "Revision Notes", based on feedback. 27 pages. Eeep!

So! You've waited with baited breath, and finally, after much anticipation, and many a coffee, that feedback you were expecting suddenly arrives. Yes! Fantastic!

But wait. Is it really a cause for celebration, or anxiety?

Often when we writers get extensive, written feedback on our work, it feels more like an anti-climax than a climax, doesn't it? We feel good, sure – someone read what I wrote! They actually read it! – but we also feel a deep sense of discomfort and melancholy. At least I do...

Feedback time usually = whisky time. Yikes!  (Source)

It doesn't have to be this way.

Here are 3 tactics that I use to turn receiving (and of course, acting on) feedback into an enriching, inspiring experience:

(1) Translate feedback into your own words

I once printed out feedback I'd gotten and used that as a checklist when going back over my work and making revisions. Never again! Not only does this take away from your agency – your control and contribution to your own work – it can also be emotionally draining. Imagine re-writing a novel based on criticisms and critiques! Gah!

Instead, take the feedback, print the feedback, and then write your own internal "Revision Notes" as you walk through that feedback line by line. And you're not just copying and pasting here, you're translating that feedback into positive, specific, and actionable revisions to your work. It will give you back the feeling of control, and make revising and rewriting a much more inspired part of the process.

(2) Take a breather!

Once you have your own set of "Revision Notes" to work from (your checklist), don't start on it immediately! No. Sure, you're excited and inspired. Sure, the sooner you revise, the sooner you can get your work out the door. But, like writing, revising based on feedback is a marathon, not a sprint. Breathe. Breathe!

Instead, take the time to absorb your notes. Really read them, and try to understand what the action items might mean for your work as a whole. Then, set them down. Go for a walk. Do something else for the next few days, or even week. During that time, you'll have all sorts of inspired, fresh ideas of how you can apply what's in your notes to the actual manuscript – they will come to you on their own, out of the blue. Then, when you're ready, revise, baby! Revise!

(3) Stand by your vision

Another lesson I learned the hard way. For good reason, us writers view feedback as gold. It's often so rare, especially the good kind, that we can't help but marvel at its luminescence and sprinkle every last drop of it over our work. But no! It can't be this way, it just can't! Remember: you've got feedback, sure, but you also have a vision.

So, even though you have your own, inspired notes at the ready, really take the time to think over each point of revision as you work through your writing. Is the change truly necessary? Does it shift or alter the original plan, your vision for your work? Is it just one person's opinion, or is it a truth that others will most likely feel, too? When necessary, stand by your vision. Ignoring feedback is just as important as listening to it!

What tactics do YOU use to get the most out of feedback? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

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