made me think of the importance of sharing your work with others to get that all important feedback. When I teach classes and work with writers individually, I get a lot of questions about sharing work—when to do it, how to do it, why do it. Here are some tips to help you along. A lot of this relates to writers, but it can apply to other forms of expression as well.
1. Give your work to someone you know is going to treat it with respect (meaning not trample on your confidence) and who is not going to give you frivolous comments. If you've written something about a family incident that really happened, you don't want to hear from your mother that "that's not how it happened."
2. Be clear about what you want to hear back. If you do give the family story to your mother, tell her you're not interested in whether you captured it the way it really happened, but in the emotion it evokes, or whether it’s confusing, or if you spelled everything right, or whatever. Be specific. I've given my work to people with the following instructions: My confidence is shaken; even if you this stinks, just tell me you love it.
3. What do you ask for? When I teach, I don't allow people to use phrases like: it was good; it was bad; I liked it; I didn't like it. As the writer, how can you possibly use such feedback to develop your work. And that’s what we're talking about here—developing your work, pulling out the themes and emotions that you want to strengthen, dampening down the ones you don't want to highlight, choosing a direction for a character or story. Feedback is a valuable tool in helping you make these decisions.
I have one or two readers with whom I share my work. I ask them to tell me what the story makes them think about, what memories and emotions it evokes for them. If I am stuck on something in the story, I ask them—where could I go with this?—and see what they have to say. I used to dread sharing my work—I used to come close to having a heart attack at the thought of someone reading my stuff. How stupid, right? I mean, isn't that the point of writing, to have someone read it?
4. Listen to the feedback. The most common thing I see—and it kind of irks me a bit—is writers ask for feedback, beg for it sometimes, and then when you give it, they start arguing with you right off the bat. And I'm pretty nice about how I give feedback. It's not easy, but take your ego off and just listen to what people have to say. You'll learn something about your work if you can just make yourself listen. And especially if you asked someone to read your stuff, don't get defensive with them. If you start arguing with them as soon as they open their mouth, chances are they won't read your stuff next time.
5. Thank the person who took the time to read your work and give you feedback.
Definitely find ways to share your work. You'll get new ideas, and you'll probably get inspired. If you're scared, make this the one thing you do today that scares you.
Come on. Do it.