Having discussed the idea of offering feedback, now we need to look at taking it. This might seem an odd concept but we’ve all had feedback and afterwards thought, ‘what a load of rubbish’. I know I have, but by the time I settle down to write I’ve usually gone, ‘Um… well… actually maybe they had a point’.
It’s all good and well being sensitive when offering feedback trying to be sensitive but taking it can require some humility. Save the rants about people not knowing anything until you’re home, I’m not going to say don’t have them because sometimes you’ve got to get frustration off your chest before you can considered objectively what you’ve heard.
The two most common forms of workshop are ones where the writer is silent while they hear feedback and the second questions can be asked of the person giving feedback before everyone has finished. Personally I prefer the freeform approach but the principle is basically the same for all of them. The writer is allowed to question the feedback or ask for more suggestions. For example we might get some feedback and think, ‘They don’t seem to have seen what I was trying to do’ so we might explain what we were aiming for and ask if they have a suggestion for something that might make this clearer for them. If someone has taken the time to examine our work closely and consider it deeply we don’t turn around and tell them they know nothing at all. I might flex this rule for the Know-It-All, but then they shouldn’t be dismissing people’s work because they think their way is the only way so this is different circumstances.
Preferably when doing a workshop at the end everyone will give you a copy of your work with their notes on it but I would suggest having your own copy and taking notes. You may highlight mistakes that are pointed out, write down questions, answers to the questions people ask and ideas you have. I can guarantee that you won’t come out of a workshop without ideas.
The main benefit of receiving feedback from an outside objective voice is that they are likely to see things in your work that you don’t or offer perspectives you may not consider. This is why it’s a good thing to find yourself in a workshop with a collection of people with different backgrounds because you also get an invaluable resource: Knowledge.
Listen to people. Whether or not you agree with their feedback you might learn something you didn’t know or you might teach them something they didn’t know. You might discover that you’re writing a detective story and someone in the workshop knows a lot about the police, you might write a horror story and discover another horror buff who has read things you haven’t and the list goes on and on. The workshop isn’t simply about technique it is about learning, asking and informing. It can become a well of knowledge that you might not have access to because not everything is in books or on the internet.
For more writing advice see my archive page.