Feedback can be terrifying. It can look like an awful prickly thistle. But it improves your work immeasurably; it changes from prickles to flowers if you give it time. It makes your work more beautiful than you could ever imagine. So how do we approach this terrifying prospect?
Why do we need feedback?
First up, I have to tell you something: your idea might not actually be a good one. It might have some serious flaws. But you might not be able to see it. You’re so close to your own work, it can be hard to see all of it clearly.
The best part of feedback is that you might finally be able to put your finger on something that has felt off. Rather than spending hours on your own trying to figure it out, a quick look by a fresh pair of eyes might find it straight away.
What do I mean by feedback?
Feedback is not just about opening yourself up to negativity. Just as I said that your work might have some problems, it probably also has some incredible aspects. The best kind of feedback mentions what you did well, as well as what needs improving. If the person giving you feedback doesn’t mention what is already great, you might accidentally change something that you should have kept.
It should not become about tearing your work apart and not valuing any of it; it’s about valuing your work enough to recognise that it needs improvement. It will take vulnerability. It will take moments of swallowing your pride. But your product will be better for it; and isn’t that what you want? Sometimes it will sting, but you won’t regret how it grows you as a creative person.
How do you ask for feedback?
This is perhaps one of the trickiest parts. You’ve decided that you can ask for feedback; but who do you turn to?
A successful creative person has a network. A network of people who care and who bring their own expertise. Without a network, we become isolated and our work is created in a vacuum. With a network, you open yourself up to growth.
The good news is that you already have one. You do not only need experts in your field; your audience extends well beyond your own sector, so start by asking friends.
If you’re seeking expert feedback, know that there are countless opportunities out there to get feedback from leaders in the field. More than that, there are also countless groups out there of writers, composers and artists who actively support each other. You’ll be surprised by who you can find to support you.
How do you apply feedback?
Ah, the hardest part. You’re looking at your precious creation, that you may well have been working on for years, and you need to start changing it.
The first action I take is to save the version that I had and put it somewhere safe. Even though I know it needs changing, I will always value where I came from. I’m sure the same can be true for you. Save it somewhere; treasure what you made even if it needs work.
The second part is where you need to be a bit brutal with yourself. If the feedback is united on something that needs to change, change it. Will it hurt? Yes, most likely. Will you be better for it? Maybe. Will your work be better for it? Almost certainly.
The final part is the real kicker. It’s where you ask for feedback again. And again. And again. Until you have made the best possible product.
Then it’s time to call it finished. For me, that’s the next tall mountain.
Good luck all!
Jena Ren (Jenny Guilford) – 2019
This post was originally published November 25, 2019.