Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Importance of Feedback

I write. I'm an artist. I footzone. I am an unrepentant creative spirit.

I earned a degree in Illustration, and am a couple classes shy of finishing a degree in Graphic Design.

I honestly and truly believe that I do these things well. Oh boy do I have my fears of failure, but it does not mean I believe I suck at the things I love. I can certainly do better and wow is there room for improvement, but I was blessed with talent and it would be disrespectful to my *self* to say otherwise.

One of the reasons that I have the confidence that I can be successful at these endeavors is because of the feedback I receive.

Yes, I know this sounds vain, but let me explain the difference between good feedback and bad feedback. Also, I would like to address how a person handles feedback and constructive criticism.

Firstly, in order to refine and improve, you have to be able to see the flaws and the areas to improve. As a rule, the creator is usually blind to many of these things. While it is true that artists are their worst critic, sometimes it is difficult to step outside of themselves and see the whole.

Due to this, it is vital to hear feedback from an outside source. Preferably from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Constructive criticism is NOT going to be 100% positive. If the writing, the portrait, the design or the artwork is a rough draft, a tight color comp, or something you may have thought finished, that feedback may not even be 50% positive.

In order to take the suggestions, ideas, and bluntness, be emotionally prepared to hear things like, "This doesn't work for me and here's why."  "Do you have any other ideas or layouts that you might want to try because...?" or "This seems completely out of character, why did this person make that choice?" "The pacing here is very slow. I became bored and skimmed to the end of the chapter." Or "I really love how you did this, but it doesn't fit with how you did this."

KNOW you aren't going hear things that will proclaim you as a faultless god in your endeavor.

**Put on your emotional armor, have a notebook handy, and realize that the people you trusted to view this baby are not attacking YOU.

** Write down all of the suggestions and take notes on ideas. Things they say may inspire you while you're listening.

** Ask questions after they are done.


There will be feedback you feel is completely ludicrous. You'll hear stuff from folks who don't understand what you're trying to say. They'll try to change it to the way 'they'd" have done it or what they think you should be doing. Be polite, listen, and disregard what you don't agree with. Think very consciously about what they are saying before you throw it out, because sometimes it can spark a brilliant idea.

In that same vein, valuable positive feedback will tell you what you did great and WHY it is great. The most important thing is understanding what works and why it works so you can put that in your file of workable techniques.

Bad feedback attacks you personally. Disregard it. Seriously. It sounds a lot like, "What were you thinking??" "This is dumb, what a waste of time." "You kind of suck at this."

Bad feedback is vague. "I don't like it." "Oh, this is great!"

I'm sure it's possible to improve without hearing from outside sources, but it will take a lot longer.

If you are pursuing writing or any kind of artistic field, please, PLEASE, be open to honest feedback. It is the most frustrating thing in the world to tell someone why you feel a, b, or c isn't functioning as well as it could, and have them get defensive, angry, and attack. Don't be that person. Just don't.

Defensiveness makes your critique group walk on egg shells around you, simply supplying your wanted platitudes. That's a waste of your time and theirs. OR, they ostracize you. That sucks, too. Defensiveness will never help you improve. Ever.

If someone says, "That's not something I would ever read/buy/commission," take it for what they mean. It's something THAT PERSON isn't interested in. It doesn't mean it's worthless; it means they are not in your audience. There is no convincing them they will love what you're doing, and no point in getting hurt over it. Simply acknowledge their position and move on.

We all feel defensive about our babies. It's the nature of being a creative. The trick is to recognize the emotion, admit it to yourself, and tell it to shut up until you are alone. Vent it all you want at the wall, at a friend, or in a diary. When you're calm, look at your notes and get to work.

Boom, growth.

That's the importance of feedback.

The biggest reason that I believe my story is worth finishing is because of the comments and criticism of my critique group. They are complete strangers - er, they were to begin with. I have pages and pages of constructive criticism that I need to address for the re-write. Yet the positive feedback from strangers and from some very picky readers that I know - who I trust to give me honest and blunt feedback - is extremely encouraging.

Don't get me wrong, I will need a content editor when I feel confident in the draft. I will definitely need a line-editor, since my ability to type a coherent sentence or use correct words is obviously impaired now. Um, also my love of commas and apostraphes.

I have designed my daughters' graduation announcements and their wedding invitations. I've done High School musical programs, designed logos, and portraits. In *EVERY* project I have asked for and expected feedback.

I've worked with printers and professional designers on several of these projects. Their input was invaluable and certainly not always ego boosting.

I do not expect nor wish to be coddled.

I want to grow as much as possible. I expect every artist does. Accepting criticism is imperative to this.

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