Antenna (antennapedia) wrote,

  • Music:

Feedback and identity and all that

This began life as a comment on this post by the esteemed Dr penwiper26, but it grew too large to be contained by the margin. Alas, I ramble and repeat myself.

Hmm. Conflicted reactions. Let's see if I can figure out what I think.

- It doesn't bug me if people want to huddle in squeegroups where they only pat each other. It neither breaks my nose nor picks my pocket. If that's what they came to fandom to get, hey, okay. Please be happy. The world needs more happy people. Don't get the urge to rant about this phenomenon.

- Publishing one's writing to strangers is indeed terrifying, and doing so an act of courage. Strangers will have all sorts of opinions about your story, and some of them will even tell you about 'em and you have to be ready to cope.

- In order to get better at anything, you must be open to the possibility that you could do better. If you want to improve as a writer, be ready to consider the specifics. Even when it hurts.

- People always always do better with encouragement and positive feedback. Smacking them, being harsh, indulging the urge to hurt, works as well with people as with dogs.

- Many writers are neurotic about feedback and stay neurotic about feedback through their entire careers. General solution is to find a few trusted sympathetic readers for early drafts. (Sympathetic as in string vibration, not tea &. Though that never hurts.)

I dunno about you, but I find the degree of self-revelation in a single short story much harder to cope with than a month of daily-life public journaling revelation. I couldn't cope for a decade, so I didn't write. My problem 100%, and I found a solution for myself.

Consider how I deal with bugs in my software. There's a QA team out there whose entire job is to break what I've written and file triumphant little bug reports detailing how it broke. Being insecure about this is silly. I need to fix them and figure out how to avoid that category of bug next time. If I could translate this attitude to my fiction, holy crap I'd be cruising.

One way to think about it, I guess, uses Bateson's logical levels:
identity / belief / capability / behavior / environment

Stuff at the top of that chain is hard to cope with. To make change easier, push the issue down the chain:

I suck! I'm not a writer!
I need to get an MFA before I can write well.
I can't write well.
This story didn't work so well.
It's impressive this story works as well as it does given that I wrote it while hanging upside down from a trapeze.

If I'm giving somebody feedback that's more than a "thank you":
- It's in response to a specific invitation.
- I'm on their side. I don't workshop stories for people I can't stand.
- I want that story to be the best story it can be.
- I don't think they suck. I don't even think that sentence sucks. I just think that sentence isn't serving the story needs as well as it might. Or that plot element. Or that particular theory of vampire biology.
- I will also tell people what's working and what's so much better than the last story. Because that feels good and happy calm resourceful people are in a much better place to consider their POV problem than unhappy people stinging from a slap in the face.
- Once a trusting relationship is built, communication goes better and I can say "OMG that sentence!" and the other person can laugh instead of crying. Because together we've pushed it down to "behavior" instead of "identity".

Twice in the last week-- the last week!-- I've received draft feedback from readers that was so insightful and helpful as to make me want to cry. Not in a bad ouchy way, just in an amazed wow way. If only I could be so helpful to somebody else... This whole online fanfic thing is, for me, about sharing with other people. Sharing the stories, sharing the fiction-writing techniques, sharing the icons.
Tags: analysis

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