One of the main reasons for joining a writing class can be to obtain some feedback from your tutor and fellow students about your writing. To take you out of the isolation of the writing process and begin to engage with the world as a writer, even an amateur one to start with. While this might sound pretty simple and straightforward, it can be incredibly difficult to go through with.
Knowing that you are inviting others to critique, offer suggestions, ask questions, and provide any other thoughts on your writing takes it to a whole new level of confronting, into what could be called the ďfear zoneĒ. You can feel like you are baring your innermost thoughts, even your soul. You can feel vulnerable yet weirdly excited at the same time.
You want to have their feedback, of course. You are there to learn. You want your writing to be read or you wouldn't have enrolled in the class in the first place.
Most of all though, you want people to like your writing. You want to improve it but you really want it to be good now. Particularly if itís a piece you've been working on for a long time and feel pleased with.
Perhaps itís easier in the early stages of this process to provide a piece for feedback that you havenít invested too much in. If you use the experience of receiving feedback to get some general thoughts, it can allow you to let yourself hear the feedback without feeling like you have to defend your work or feel like you just canít hear it - and perhaps worst of all - that you wonít be taking on any of the suggestions. That would be defeating the purpose of putting yourself through this whole experience.
Being ready to listen, to gain the perspective of others and to really value the thoughts and ideas that come through in the feedback is perhaps the secret of using feedback to improve your writing.
Once the feedback has been truly heard the decisions can then be made about what to do next, which parts resonate with you, which parts you might need to make clearer or change, which pieces of feedback you really donít think you should take on.
Thereís a duplicity then in the process of receiving feedback Ė involving both the head and the heart. The head can hear what people say and make sense of the suggestions in a concrete and practical sense. The heart, on the other hand, may feel attacked or hurt by the feedback. We want the reader to love our work. We donít want to hear criticism. We donít want others to pass judgment on our work. Our head tells us though that this is all part of the learning experience. It will help us if we are able to hear that.