Feeling my way into giving feedback

2 Aug

Week 3 ~

What a difference going first makes. Last week I felt completely short-changed by the whole feedback process of the workshop, fielding my contribution last and with little time. This week, I stepped up first, into the undiluted attention of twelve writing enthusiasts.

I can’t say there was a consensus of opinion or interpretation (this is pleasing), but I can say that their collective mulling was able to… ‘get me’. Oh I imagine every established writer has shouldered more than their fair share of responsibility in being understood by the reader, and I imagine too it’s a very important first step to being established.

So why am I so pleased they worked a little harder to understand what it was I was saying? Did I do something better this week, or did they work a little harder? I felt less excited about what I offered this week, a little constricted on what I delivered, and yet… the feedback was genuinely supportive and positive. Not like last week.

Going first or last makes a huge difference, and I suspect we’re all warming up to each others’ ways.

It is our second workshop and we are developing roles. There’s the guy who hates an intangible observation (do you really believe that could happen?), there’s a self-appointed pronoun policeman (who is this you? Was anyone else surprised by this you turning up?), there’s a woman with scissors in her editorial hands ready to cut and paste the arrangement into a new collage. There’s a guy who comments considerably on format, line breaks, capital letters, indents and the like. And there’s the woman who isn’t at all shy to say; I just don’t get it. These are all helpful roles.

What’s my critiquing role? I’m a little shy of it. See, I don’t think it’s unique or particularly specialised, yet it is where my gut response lies.

My native response sounds something like this: I like this poem. It’s delicate, I wish I were there, or, Wow, I feel really affirmed as a human being reading that. Or conversely; hmmm, I wasn’t able to travel with you on that. You lost me somewhere. I guess I want to connect with the journey rather than analysise how we got there.

I know what I consider a good poem or prose because I become inspired and want, in fact; must write a response to it. But it needs contemplative space, space that’s a little bit more spacious than a 3 hour workshop with 13 bodies sitting in a circle.

Does that give me an editing role in the circle? I’m not sure yet. I approach with a slightly awkward veneer, and wonder, as I yelp out my responses, if I will remain swaddled in the big fat paws of an enthusiastic puppy, endearing and guileless, for the remainder of the course. Is there space for me to evolve into a more delicate creature of critique; a cat purring at something refined and elegant, and of course, delectable?

In my opinion, it takes a clear and equally empathetic mind to offer good feedback, and in these workshops I’m much impressed with the astute observations of what works and what doesn’t, and why. There are obviously some experienced editors here. Their seasoning is a little intimidating. I kinda like that. I’m on my own fringe of comfort here and those spaces that I call intimidating are where I can stretch into first.

And grow from there.

If I follow that advice, this evolution seems pretty well mapped.


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