Getting Useful Feedback from Family & Friends

Getting Help from Family & FriendsWe’ve all been there. We turn over our precious baby made of ink and paper to our family or our friends and we wait, eager to receive the responses that will validate our hopes we’ve written something worthy of praise. Then, we get their “feedback” and it’s all but useless to us. The usual responses come:

“It’s great, honey,” or

“It’s okay, I guess.”

Or worse, they say nothing.

Rather than validating us in our writing ability, these comments can shut us down. We don’t know how good or how bad our writing really is, so the negative voices in our head start chanting louder. That’s why joining or starting a writers group is really important to your ability to succeed as a writer. However, maybe you aren’t ready to put your work out there in front of strangers yet. This article is for you.

Don’t Push Them

Don’t push your family and friends to support you in your dream of becoming a writer. It’s not their dream. It’d be nice if they would, but don’t expect it.

If you want them to support your dream, show them how doing that will help them achieve their dreams. Of course, that requires that you know their dreams and ambitions first. Once you show them how supporting you really supports them, you might find them more eager to participate in helping you with your writing.

Regardless of whether they support you or not, though, don’t push. Remember the first law of Newton’s Thermodynamics is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Pushing drives things – and people- moving in the opposite direction of where you want them to go.

If they say no, or they seem reluctant, drop the matter. Don’t make them feel obligated to help you, and don’t use their lack of support as an excuse for you not to write. Write anyway.

Welcome All Feedback

All feedback, negative and positive, is valuable to you. Welcome it. Positive feedback encourages you to keep going, but it doesn’t help you to improve. Negative feedback, as hard as it can be to hear, helps you to know where it is you need to grow.

Make sure that you let your family and friends that you want to know the truth – and then act like it. Put your big girl panties on and accept graciously the feedback they do give you, no matter how much it may hurt. Thank them for being willing to give it to you.

Realize that giving honest feedback takes a lot of courage from the people who care about you. They may be afraid of damaging the relationship with you, or of starting an argument. The more sensitive you are, the more likely they are to be reluctant to be honest. Promise yourself, and them, that you will accept their feedback for the gift it is – even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear.

Ask the Right Questions

If you want to get useful feedback from your family and friends, you need to start by asking them the right questions. Don’t just turn your writing over to them and expect them to know what you need to hear. They aren’t writers. They don’t understand what constitutes useful feedback and what doesn’t. That means you’ll need to do a little bit of work before you share your work with them.

If you have written non-fiction or self-help information, ask them to highlight any terms they don’t understand. Are the steps you provide clear? Do they have questions about the process you haven’t answered?

If you’re writing fiction, ask them to describe what’s happening in this scene. Note their responses. What details did they pick up? Which ones did they miss? What did they think was happening? These are all clues that can tell you where your writing has succeeded and where it has failed.

Don’t Let the Negatives Discourage You

Here’s a mistake that we all tend to make: we let the negative feedback discourage us from continuing. We give up on ourselves and our writing when we hear negatives. This is a mistake. The negatives should encourage us to improve.

When you receive negative feedback, you are being told where you are weak. That’s valuable information. Even if you don’t feel it’s justified, you can learn from it. What are you missing in your scene, what isn’t there that maybe ought to be?

We all prefer the positive affirmations of encouraging feedback, but negative feedback is what helps us grow as writers. So instead of using the negative as a reason to quit, use it as an incentive to grow.

It Isn’t Always About You

So you follow my advice, you ask the right questions, you welcome the feedback, but you can’t get them to read your work. This can be discouraging but the most important thing I can tell you is that it isn’t always about you. It’s not always about your writing. Some people just don’t like reading. Sometimes people have their own problems and concerns, and they have too much on their mind to be able to focus on reading.

If you’ve done everything I’ve suggested and you’re still not getting the feedback you like, just chalk it up to it being their problem, not yours, and use their failure as incentive to work harder on finding or starting a group that will provide you the support you need. Maybe it’s time to grow in a new direction.

Coming Soon: How to Start a Blog

I’ve recommended blogging as a way to practice your writing and get more of it done. I’ll be outlining the steps to take to do just that soon, so check back in with us.

Share Your Experiences

What has your experience been when sharing your writing with family and friends? Do you have any advice or tips you’d like to share with others? Leave a comment and let us know.

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