Recently I found myself shouting (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it, “shouting”) at one of my best friends/family members who gave me some mean–and not particularly useful–feedback about my novel. I won’t go into details, mostly because it makes me sound like an ass. Suffice to say I actually know better than to listen to her; since despite my best efforts to explain what I need, she doesn’t understand how to give good feedback or apply any sort of filter.
I’ve read tons of articles about how creatives must be able to tune out both negative and positive feedback. As artists, we work from a place of faith and connection with source truth. Still, we’re human and that is far more easily said than done. Processing feedback is a skill and a muscle, and the only way to get better is to practice.
I found this article by Liz Gilbert very useful. I highly recommend reading the entire article for more insight, but I’ve outlined her four criteria for assessing feedback below.
- Do I trust this person’s taste and judgment?
- Does this person understand what I’m trying to create here?
- Does this person genuinely want me to succeed?
- Is this person capable of delivering the truth to me in a sensitive and compassionate manner?
My Own Practical Application
I find it useful to incorporate these points into my guidelines for early/beta readers on my novels and short stories. In addition to coaching folks on the feedback I want, I also make it very clear what my goals and what kind of feedback I am seeking. For example, if someone is reading an early draft, I want content and structural comments, not style and copyediting – later on the reverse will be true. If their response still falls short, I force myself to “skip it”. That’s not to say I don’t want negative feedback, rather it is to affirm that I MUST have useful feedback.
Of course, this is also a reminder that when you find folks with whom you work well–hang on!