As writers we all want to know what people think of our work. Whether that be when we are performing at a spoken word or when we have written and published our books
“Receivers are not just passive absorbers of messages; they receive the message and respond to them. This response of a receiver to sender’s message is called Feedback”
Many of us always hope to hear something positive about what we are doing, and psychologically positive strokes are good for our ego and can spur us on to carry on creating.
However, is that fair on us that we may be getting (or seeking) positive feedback telling us we are great but in reality, we may be going the wrong way, or we are not making improvements, so our previously fresh work becomes stale or samey.
the answer is choosing who we get our feedback from.
if we ask our friends and family directly “what did you think of that” you are most likely (but not always) going to get a variation on how great it is even if there are glaring improvements to be made. The feedback can be very subjective.
To go off at a tangent for a moment, when a microphone and a speaker end up repeating each other, then the screaming is intense and very off putting which is just like receiving poor ‘feedback’
When giving or receiving feedback, the three things that I find useful are
- Why it helps you/ me
- How to do it
- How to feel confident about doing it
Feedback is not about criticism but about being critical. It is the piece of work or performance being looked at.
Below is some feedback I have been given by a fellow poet for my new book.
How giving feedback to others helps you
They get to hear what’s working already, so they learn about their strengths. They also get your suggestions for how to change it, and so they can improve that poem. Over time, they can use this feedback to develop their skills and knowledge.
Every time you do this, you also help your own writing.
You can learn as much from giving feedback as you can from receiving it. When you give detailed feedback, it means not only that you’ve engaged with a poem deeply, but also that you’ve thought about many ways in which the poem might be improved.
For example, when commenting on a poem, you might think about:
- How do you feel about the poem?
- What is the overall meaning of the poem?
- Are there parts where too much is being said?
- How well is the poem structured?
- What about the line breaks and sentence rhythms?
- Are there parts you don’t understand?
- Are the images and word choices fresh, exact, exciting?
- Does the voice sound authentic?
It’s really good to practice all that, and it will help you apply it to your own poems later. When you look at our own poems, you tend to see what you think is there—even when it isn’t!
- You have an idea of what you wanted to say, and you probably believe you’ve conveyed it—when in fact your reader may be utterly confused!
- Or, you may have said what you wanted to say many times more than you needed to, and the poem needs a lot of cutting!
Both of these problems, and others, are hard for you to see—that’s why getting feedback is so helpful.
But what can you do when you want to redraft a poem and feedback isn’t available?
At moments like that, the time you’ve put into other people’s poems will come to your aid.
The more you’ve looked with clear eyes at the poems of others, the easier it becomes (though it is still always hard) to apply the same objectivity to your own poems.
- You may see yourself making the same errors you’ve seen in a dozen other poems—so you can correct them
- You may also see yourself getting things right—which is always pleasant to feel!
- You may even be able to imagine yourself reading your poem as if it were someone else’s, and hear what feedback you’d give yourself at a writers’ group!
So, by helping others, you’re learning a lot more about helping yourself.
- You may read someone else’s work using a form or technique that’s new to you and feel inspired to try it yourself.
- The success of a really good poem may fire you up to try do as well or better, which is useful motivation!
How to give feedback to another poet
Everyone likes to hear some reassurance to begin with! So, find something you like in the draft and tell the writer what it was and why you liked it.
While it can be nice to hear “This is great!” or “I loved this!”, feedback that only says that doesn’t help a poet improve their work. Find something specific that you like in the piece – an image, an imaginative word choice. Tell the author what it was and why you liked it. Then they have a good idea how they can repeat their success in another poem.
After you’ve praised, you can move on to parts of the poem that you think need more work. Again, be as specific as you can, and also say why something isn’t working for you. This gives them insight they can use to redraft their work. If you can think of suggestions for what else they could do, then throw those in too! At the end, remember that the writer took a risk sharing this poem with you, and that deserves respect. So, finish off with some wholehearted appreciation, telling them how you are glad they shared, and why.
- Tell someone something you liked about their piece of work
- Offer any thoughts of things that might improve it from a reader’s point of view
- Share the overall positive thing you gained from that person sharing the piece
How to get confident about giving feedback
If you’ve never given feedback before, you don’t have to start with a long comment! Just give a brief Praise Sandwich. You can build it up as you learn more.
Whilst you can make suggestions for how the poet might redraft their work, you can just say what you liked and what worked less well for you. When you get more experienced you can add more detail, but don’t start that way.
Giving feedback is a skill that gets stronger with practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets. So, take as many opportunities as you can!
I acknowledge that I used some of the text from this blog on feedback which I have found useful for feedback to colleagues in our writer’s circle