My daughter is an artist. She recently discovered a video channel where two professional artists invite budding artists to send in submissions that they then critique in a video, often demonstrating what they’re talking about by touching up the artists painting as they talk. I’ve watched some of these with her, and they’re fascinating. I’m not an artist, and I still learned a lot about what makes compelling art.
We speculated about how cool it would be if someone would do the same for writing, though we admitted the differences in the art forms would make it difficult. These artists can critique a piece of art in a fraction of the time it would take to even read someone’s short story submission, let alone critique it. Any writer who attempted something similar would likely end up without enough time to work on their own writing.
But that’s why finding readers for your work is gold; be they alpha, beta, or “response” readers. Feedback of any kind is gold to a writer.
One of my co-workers knows I write during my lunch break. I recently mentioned that I was writing a short story for a submission, and after I told him a little about it he asked to read it when I was done. I sent him a copy and left it at that.
Yesterday he told me he finished it. He gave me a few compliments on it that as a self-deprecating writer I found easy to take with a grain of salt (I don’t know yet how “good” a reader this person is), but he did give me one piece of feedback that was difficult to take at anything but face value: he told me he wanted more, that I needed to expand on my story.
Made. My. Day.
Even if we don’t have the time for or can’t find a writing group, getting feedback of any kind can be helpful. It’s easy to get into the trap as a writer of thinking we’ve got to get our work perfect before we let anyone else see it. I’m guilty of it. But thanks to my co-worker and my daughter I’m seeing the error of my ways.
While we don’t necessarily need to be pushing our work on everyone we meet, some occasional feedback can be helpful, if for no other reason than reminding ourselves that our own opinion of our work is biased and therefore suspect. We need a different perspective from time to time.
In my case this feedback came at a time when I’ve been questioning whether I even want to keep writing. Now I have to control my urge to drop my current project and go write some more of that story to satisfy my co-worker. A little confidence boost goes a long way.
Don’t be afraid to get your work in front of people. It’s hard to grow as a writer in a vacuum. Feedback, even on the most basic levels, can offer us new perspectives on our work we would not otherwise gain.