Send Your Words Out into the World
By Cayt Mirra
Seeking feedback on your writing is scary. It requires the ability to be vulnerable with something that is often very close to your heart. It can feel like you are putting yourself on the page and emailing it for people to judge. But feedback, when given effectively, can drive us to improve, and will ultimately make our writing better. Many writers know the complete relief felt when a piece of writing is finished. All that hard work is over. But a ‘finished’ piece is often just the beginning. Then comes the editing, the redrafting, the improving. It can be exhausting and it is easy to get offended during this period. Instead of clinging hopefully to your work and telling yourself it is fine the way it is, read on, and see how much you have to gain by sharing your writing with others.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to skip this stage entirely? Is feedback really that important? Well, yes. Writing can be intimate, and sometimes you can be too close to it to see the errors in your own work. The ideas generated from others can also be invigorating and provide fresh motivation for the editing process. They can give us new ideas, and highlight areas that need clarifying. They can lead us to question things we might not have thought of on our own. Ease yourself into it. A good way to start in seeking feedback is to begin by showing your writing to someone you trust, who will give you gentle feedback. You don’t want the very first person to see your work to be a professional editor. Practise putting yourself out there with different people. Join a writing group, or find an online community and share some other pieces of writing you are less invested in. With longer pieces, it can help to start with a small section of the work. A page, or a chapter. It can also help to provide people with very specific criteria for the feedback by including some guiding questions. For example, if sending someone the first chapter of a novel, you might ask for feedback specifically on the introduction of the protagonist. This helps to keep the feedback focused, and helps the writer prepare for what they might hear. It can help to plan ahead. Make a list of all the people you would like feedback from and put them in an appropriate order. You might start with a friend, then some other writers, then people with expert knowledge in relation to the content of your writing, and end with a professional editor. Remember, feedback and proofreading are not the same thing. There is nothing to be gained, in the early drafting stages, from having someone go through your writing meticulously with a red pen. Get the content right first and be clear when asking people to read your work that you are not seeking editing. Be prepared to take criticism constructively. Sending your writing to another person can, if you approach it the right way, be thrilling. After all, the words were written to be read. A first draft is exactly that; don’t fear critique—it is there to help you. Embrace what others have to say, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. Words are there to communicate ideas and thoughts. If the reader isn’t getting the message, the words need to be changed. So don’t be afraid. Get that manuscript, essay or article, put it in an email with some guiding questions and press send. You have everything to gain.