feedback

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On his blog, Steven Pressfield has been talking about artistic resistance—those times when we get some feedback and, feeling crushed, discard all comments and suggestions. He compares that resistance to the stages of grief (shock, denial, etc., through acceptance). He also discusses how harmful it can be to resist and reject the feedback.

Read the whole post, but briefly he talks about how important it is to work through our reaction so that we can truly take in that feedback—step back and hear it objectively, look at our manuscripts and see how those comments might affect it.

This works well if you have a trusted reader (he does). But what if you’re receiving those comments from an editor or teacher you don’t know well? What if they rewrite your poem to illustrate what they mean? For me, the rewrite is an especially tricky issue—the result might be brilliant, but what do I do with this, now that it doesn’t even feel like mine anymore?

My strategy: After I step back, take a break and get a little distance, I look for the underlying intent–what is the impulse behind the edits, how can I use it in my own voice? If I know what’s driving the suggestion, I can keep the conversation open, keep working on the poem, and learn new things in the process.

What are your strategies for hearing and using comments and suggestions?

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