*...off the cliff, while hanging on by the fingernails
This blog post appeared a few months back, but I find it one to bookmark and return to.
The gist of it is that feedback on one’s work, while essential and helpful, is not to be treated as sacred and infallible. I would say it even more strongly: it is, like we all are, biased and fallible.
What is left for creatives is to discern what helps them, and what is unhelpful or worse, i.e. toxic.
This is just as hard a process as the initial making something out of nothing, be it writing, painting, or composing. Just as hard, and much less enjoyable.
But discernment on how to use feedback is indispensable.
Early on, I took every single point to heart. Then I learned what worked for me. Here is the way I go about this stage—
A. Feedback received, read, and with tears blurring my eyes I type a Thank You note. I’m grateful for the time and thought they gave. This is not a fully digested reaction to the content.
B. Letting the feedback rest for a time.
C. Marking the points that make perfect sense with an exclamation. This part is actually enjoyable, not only because every fix is a clear improvement. What makes sense also makes me feel this reader understood my work. Then I make the suggested changes one by one. By now I feel I’m working, and things are looking up.
D. Mark the points that maybe possibly sort of make sense to me with a question mark, to be addressed later.
E. Mark the points that seem completely off with a red dot. I will return to them only after I digested all the rest, and have gotten more feedback from another beta reader.
F. Keep the feedback as a printed or word file, because someday it will either resonate fully or be the funniest thing I ever read. But when fresh it’s not funny.
I go through more or less all the above with all feedback. I continue to seek it. I do my best to give helpful feedback. It’s part of the writing life, and in a way, part of life, period.