In the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to three friends about where they go for feedback on their writing. Their answers were different, just as they are different. One is enrolled in an online class, and the other two are in several writing relationships. One way to get feedback, of course, is through the Writing Workshop Workshop at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 21, at Olive’s on Ludlow.
When you pick a significant other, you might hope that you don’t go into the relationship intending to critique each other. But writers join writing groups or writing partnerships intending to be critiqued. It then makes sense that we need to assess the skills of the people whom we’re considering for the position of BWFs (Best Writing Friends).
- How good are they at writing?
- Have they actually published anything? This isn’t a deal breaker, though; I’ve known people who have great eyes, but haven’t published. It is a data point to consider, though.
- How gentle are they with my work? With my feelings? I might want them to rip my work apart, but I don’t want them to rip my soul out of my body and convince me I have no business owning a pen.
- How are their oral communication skills? It’s great if these people are geniuses, but can they convey some of that to me?
One of my friends is in a writing group where they actually do line edits of each other’s work. Oh lord, that would not be the group for me. But this group is dedicated to publication. They intend that their members take the reviewed piece and send it out. What a great service! And sometimes they rip the work down to its bones. Just as I might not understand how my best friends put up with their significant others, some people might not fathom how writers could put up with such brutal feedback. To even be in the group you have to be published. You have to apply to this group. And it has a waiting list to get in.
Now another friend is in an online class, working away at honing her craft. Many online classes work as workshops, where the participants critique each other. Others work as traditional classes, where only the instructor comments on the participants’ writing.
I used to teach such courses, but I found that I really missed the personal interaction: the nonverbals, the interaction between the students, the spontaneous generation of creativity that happens when you have a group of writers together in the same room. And I found that critiques are often best shared in a situation where you can make eye contact and adjust your tone based on how the writer-to-be is receiving it.
Hearing someone’s feedback on your passion is difficult enough without putting it in the sterile medium of a digital dropbox where a detached reviewer responds in pixels on a page. Thank heavens our childhood dreams aren’t handled that way, or I might have never gotten the encouragement to pursue mine.
Instructor/mother: Please transmit life dream via dropbox.
Student/5-year-old Wendy: I want to be a mother bird.
Instructor/mother: This is not a saleable concept. This genre does not exist. You need to start over and work with what you know. Can you even fly?