Receiving Feedback

Receiving feedback can be tough.

Sometimes, the poem you felt such pride in completing is not received as well as you hoped, and it feels devastating. Sometimes, something you feel really needs work is praised, and you are thinking, “What the **** are these people thinking?” (It happens.)

It helps to know that we can ask for specific feedback (see this page ) when we need it, but it is also important to know that receiving feedback does not mean we have to take it all, or to abandon our work completely on the say-so of others.

When we ask for feedback, we are taking on a growth mindset. We know that practice makes progress, if not always perfection. We truly want to improve our skills, to be heard, and seen, and understood.

How then, do we deal with feedback when it’s not great, or when people just sprinkle sunshine and rainbows over something that isn’t that good? It’s tough for everyone, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Think about who you’re asking. If you want constructive, honest feedback, ask someone who you can trust to deliver it. If you know that the person will be honest without being negative or cruel, go for it. Think about whether you’d prefer one-on-one feedback to group input; if so, ask a friend to work with you at another time. If you are comfortable with group feedback, by all means bring it to the Writer’s Circle: that’s what we’re here for!
  • Only share your work if you feel comfortable receiving feedback.Everyone feels nervous about sharing their work at times. However, if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about how your work might be received due to its content, or don’t feel like you’ve built trust with everyone in the group, do not feel that you need to share publicly. (Perhaps you can ask someone you trust for a 1:1.) You should never feel pressure to share if you are not ready. Your art is your business. Only share it when you want to.
  • Take notes and ask questions. Since feedback may be coming from more than one person, it’s probably a good idea to listen to what others are saying and take notes. If you don’t understand a point of feedback, wait until they are finished and ask for clarification. After the feedback is given, you can feel free to respond to the feedback with clarification of your own as to your intentions in the work. By taking notes and actively engaging in the critique, you will be better prepared for the editing process.
  • Accept feedback gracefully. Poems are sometimes very personal. It can be difficult to hear others speak critically about your work, no matter how tactful the critic tries to be. However, by embracing feedback with a growth mindset and a positive attitude, you will be primed to improve as a writer. In addition, others will enjoy working with you, and be likely to ask you for feedback in return. Remember, other people’s feedback is only a series of suggestions. You are not obligated to use any of them, or to change your work in any way. Still, someone has taken the time to read and think about your work, and it is good form to be open to and show gratitude for others’ input.

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Next: What to Ask For in Critique