Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Feedback on feedback

What is it about getting feedback from my mentor that throws me into an emotional tail spin? I got my stories and comments back yesterday, and they were really positive. The most positive I have ever gotten (which I think makes sense because this was definitely the best story I've handed in). But still, I can't stop thinking about the comments and trying to make sense of it all...

I got home at 10 last night and saw the envelope in our mail pile. I ripped it open before even saying hello to Brian. I then sat in the living room reading the responses like a zombie while Brian tried to talk to me. When I came up for a breath and he asked, what is that? I told him my mentor response. After I read all the comments, I answered Brian's other question of, what did he think? He liked it, I said. And that was it. Then I went to sleep and lie there thinking and thinking and thinking about the comments.

And I woke up, thinking about them some more. I'm thinking about how to revise the story, how to respond to some of the questions that were brought up regarding my essay. All while I should be focusing on my next story, which I'm now worried will disappoint by not being as good as the first (it's definitely a harder birthing process for this one...). And I'm wondering if my new mentor isn't pushing me hard enough (way to turn good news into bad, huh?).

Anyway, how do you react when you get feedback from teachers, writing groups, friends, etc.? Best Blogger Tips


TI said...

The same. If it's good feedback I feel that they're being nice, and if it's bad, I feel awful. Since I've had your mentor before, I can tell you that the feedback isn't always glowing. So if it was overall positive, then that's a good sign that your story was good. So if I had to give you advice, I would say, revel in the positive feedback and have faith that it's not the last good story you have in you, even if the next one isn't as good (yet).

RB said...

Playing devil's advocate here: I think it's also important to remember that your mentor--regardless of the bona fides he or she has--is just one person...meaning you're receiving only ONE person's opinion. And it's quite possible that his or her opinion may be off. I have a theory that MFA programs should be taught by book editors, not writers. My analogy? Not every great quarterback coach was a great quarterback himself. Being a great quarterback COACH is a helluva lot different than BEING a great quarterback--two different skill sets. Same goes with writers and editors. Many great editors claim they could never write a book--that's not their talent. Their talent is spotting things like structure and pacing problems...and guiding writers to fix those problems. So keep all comments (mentors, members from your writer's group, friends, family) in perspective. YOU are ultimately in charge of your story. No one else. Which comments make you go, "Gee, he's right about that" and which comments make you go, "Are we talking about the same story?" Accept the former, and focus on the latter. Is it possible he *could* be right in his observations, and, with time, you'll see that? Or is he still way off? Of course, it takes time before arriving at the true answer to the last question. But that's how I've come to think about ALL feedback. Remember, we DON'T want to create a platypus.

As for worrying about impressing them, I struggle with that, too, although less so at this point (perhaps I've been broken). BTW--I'm not sounding this way b/c I'm upset with my feedback for this latest round. My mentor was kind and encouraging. I agreed with some of her points and not so much with others. And that's okay.

Keep writing, Bug. You're good!

Repeater said...

Oh, bug, that's excellent. I know he certainly doesn't give out unwarranted praise. Congrats. And as far as your current story, well, it's just part of the cycle, yes? Hard not to feel like you've got to live up to your best work. I, however, have not gotten mine back yet, so check back with me on my oh so calm attitude in a few days.

jz said...

Hey Bug -- I haven't been around for awhile...so I just thought I'd stop by to say hey.

We are writers -- therefore we love people to read what we write -- it's what we live for, yes. and the feedback is essential. It's the way you react/respond to the feedback that matters.

bostonerin said...

I'm with RB on this one. Accept any feedback with an open, honest assessment of your story. If you can look objectively at your piece and agree with what he/she says, great. If you have points where you clash, try and evaluate why. You might not also agree with the mentor's solution to a problem, either, even though you might agree that there is a problem in that specific scene/element.

You know your story better than anyone, but being able to view it with distance allows you to see it with more clarity. And thus, better deal with feedback. Good luck!!

Bug said...

Thanks everyone for such thoughtful comments!

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