A great question to ask yourself when giving feedback: Where does the writing want to go?
When I was 7 years old, the local police came to our school and set up a bicycle safety course on our playground. To earn an official, personalized, laminated bicycle safety license, we had to navigate through the obstacles, demonstrating hand signals at the proper times.
I inched my front tire up to the starting line, anxious prickles in my stomach, as the pylons, flags and skinny little bridges seemed anthropomorphically poised to throw themselves into my path. The policeman blew his whistle and I launched, missed the first curve and went down in a tangle of orange.
All the other kids had gone to lunch and I was still sweating my way through the first leg of the course, seemingly magnetized to the pylons. The young officer charged with my bicycle safety education dusted me off, pulled a flag out of my spokes and told me, “Go back to the starting line, and this time, don’t look where you don’t want to go.”
“Well, then where do I… Oooooh.”
The brain has a natural tendency to look first for problems. It identifies all of the potential dangers in the immediate environment before allowing you to relax into the enjoyment whatever pleasures are at hand. While this ensures survival, it’s bunk for moving into the wide-open space in which creation occurs. If you’re always looking for what’s wrong, you’ll never finish a first draft.
When giving or receiving feedback, acknowledge the brain’s tendency to point us right where don’t want to go. Before you do or say a thing about what’s wrong, look at where the writing wants to go. Once this is established, most of the problems will seem peripheral and the course to the finish line will open up.
DAILY PROMPT: Make a list of what’s working in a creative project, a piece of writing, a relationship or a job. 6 minutes
Extra step: Read the list over. What does it tell you about where the project, writing, relationship or job wants to go?