Hearing criticism or feedback is tough to hear, especially for anyone in the creative arts such as writing. But one of the best ways to improve as a writer is receiving and learning from the feedback of others. Whether they are casual readers or fellow writers, criticism, praise, or suggestions can all help you learn from your mistakes and progress into a better writer. However, the trick is actually getting that feedback.
Attracting readers is absolutely necessary if you wish to better your writing. There may be lines you’ve written that seem comparable to those of Hemingway in your mind, which then suddenly appear to be poorly constructed the next day. As many would believe, you are your own worst critic, so it’s hard to tell which is the truth.
Asking for feedback is a two-way street. Simply asking, “Can you review this?” is a vague questions that leaves the door open for even vaguer answers. Instead, ask a few specific questions to give the reader an idea of what you’re looking for in his or her feedback, and a direction in which he or she can provide meaningful answers. After asking these questions, refrain from trying to explain certain parts of your work. Let readers form their own opinions. Consider the fact that you won’t be able to explain these possibly confusing parts to people that may read your work halfway around the world. The piece should speak for itself.
The first step in receiving feedback is accepting that you need it. Before revealing your creative work to the world, make sure you have an open mind. It will be criticized, but do not let that deter you from continuing. Rather, learn from it. Constructive criticism is not a personal attack on your work. The world’s most successful writers, authors, and poets wouldn’t be at their respective levels of fame without having their works criticized, and then taking away meaningful lessons from those critiques and suggestions.
Proofread. There is perhaps no greater frustration than having a simple grammatical error pointed out by a reader that you missed before submitting your work. In order to avoid this frustration, read over your work before submitting it to those who’ve offered to review it. A story, article, or poem that is riddled with small errors immediately comes off as unprofessional, and will most likely be dismissed by its readers. You want to display your work with confidence. Only when you feel that it is as its best possible state should you ask for feedback on it.
The audience you ask to review your piece is just as important as the ‘when’ and ‘why’. Ideally, you’ll want to ask fellow writers or avid readers that understand the difference between a masterpiece and a poorly written diary entry. Not only do they know what they’re talking about, but they will most likely be upfront and honest in their answers. Asking family members or significant others will almost always yield sympathetic answers. Though flattering, they are not often constructive.
As a writer, I believe that feedback is necessarily to fuel your career and grow your skills. However, make sure it is constructive, and process it in a way that helps you learn. You will not always hear what you want to hear, but that is no reason to get too emotional, or attached to it. Show appreciation for those offering to review your work, and listen to what they have to say. Learning from your mistakes is what will eventually allow you to develop your abilities in the writing world.