I’m passionately against feedback. I know, it’s an unfashionable opinion. If your voice is not strong, your project not solid or the feedback is coming from someone you consider an ‘expert’, feedback can pull you off track. The earlier in the writing process feedback is given, the less constructive and the more harmful the feedback is because the work isn’t finished yet. The further you get through it, the more you’ll know what the story is and how to tell it. Usually people are giving you feedback on the omelette mix not the omelette.
‘This omelette is cold and wet and not cooked enough’
‘Err it’s omlette mix. Not an omelette. It’s not finished.’
‘I hate it. It doesn’t work as an omelette.’
‘That’s because it’s omelette mix not an omelette.’
Or they are eating the omelette and comparing it with a cake.
‘This omelette is not sweet enough and it’s too flat’
‘Err it’s omlette. Not a cake.’
‘But I want it to be a cake’
‘It’s an omelette. If I made it sweet and puff up it would be a pancake or a souffle’
‘Yes! A souffle! That’s what you need to do. Turn it onto a souffle!’
‘But I’m cooking an omelette’
‘I don’t like omelettes. I like souffles’
When people give you feedback you don’t know what their agenda is. It may not be their genre, they may not like your style of writing, they may hate reading, perhaps they’re envious, they may feel they need to say something negative to sound smart, knowledgeable, or like they have given it some thought.
We live in a feedback-mad society. Performance review? Fuck off. I’ll review myself, thanks.
I ran a writing class recently and the organiser sent me an email a few days later asking me for my home address so she could send me the assessment forms the students completed at the end. ‘Fabulous feedback! 100% positive!’ she said. I replied: ‘Thanks so much, but I have no interest in feedback. I really don’t care what people think. I have very high standards for myself and it’s only my own opinion I care about.’ And no, I did not preface my response with ‘don’t take this the wrong way’. You can’t control how people will take things. So many times, people use ‘no offence, but’ as a licence or caveat to say mean, unhelpful or passive- aggressive things.
I am most strongly almost evangelically against unsolicited feedback. If you hear someone saying ‘I’m just giving feedback’, ‘It’s just constructive criticism’ or ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying’, run screaming. Or just vague out. While they are talking, nod your head and fantasise about where you are going to bury their body.
Here is all the feedback I give. It’s all you need.
You are brilliant.
This is awesome.
Just keep going.
Even when things are finished and printed, published, produced and making squillions of dollars and getting rave reviews some people’s feedback is ‘that was shit’.
Feedback is unreliable, unhelpful and unnecessary.
Judge yourself on what you think of your effort. Don’t judge yourself on what other people think of your work. Because they’re wrong.
It’s none of your business what other people think of your work.
It’s none of your business what you think of your work.
It only matters what you think of yourself and your effort.
Buy a mug to remind you if all the feedback you need.