I was reading an article this morning about how we receive and how we give feedback and criticism and it made me think.
As a writer I am no stranger to having my work picked over. Fortunately those who have, have always been encouraging even if there was plenty to address.
I also give feedback as part of my day job and I like to think I have developed a style that is encouraging and empowering, but at the same time, honest. It has to be.
What I did was look at what I want from a critique, honesty first and foremost, but no point in saying what’s wrong if you can’t offer a fix, an idea, a suggestion. This is where I think various things combine — me being a writer myself, the fact I work in publishing (albeit on a small scale) but I have worked with lots of stories and lots of writers to know what works, being a reader helps, and my MA alongside numerous other courses so I have a strong grasp of what works and what techniques to use to make things work better. And like you, I return to books and I read magazines and I make sure the advice I give is as solid as it can be.
I once had someone critique my work who just said things like — nah, boring, cut, don’t believe you — and no offer of why or how. I found it demoralising. And I vowed I would never do that or make someone feel that way.
Yes I have worked on manuscripts by very new writers that need a lot of work, but handled right, the comments and suggestions and advice make it clear they have a lot to learn, but a good teacher empowers and makes the student want to learn, and doesn’t demoralise or make them feel like giving up forever.
It helps I am, a ‘people’ person, or I like to think I am, so I approach the job with passion and enthusiasm and do go the extra mile for people. I love it when they tell me they can see the improvement and when they start to have success. And since I have my publishing contacts, the various projects I am involved in, like CafeLit, I do offer ways to kick-start careers where I can and have suggested they submit to various collections.
Not everyone can teach, I like to think I have the balance right between honesty and encouragement. All I can say is it seems to work and we start the official first full week of work this year, I have a full board of jobs and lots are new clients, as well as familiar faces — so I look forward to what we can do together.
2014 is going to be a great year, come along and see!
Have a great week everyone!