Feeback and Your Brain

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?

One response to “Feeback and Your Brain

  1. Judy Owens-Manley

    What’s working is that I’m enjoying writing, I’m responding to prompts on this website, I’m thinking of myself as a writer. I notice that now I wanted to go immediately to what’s not working. I’m planning to attend your writing conference in November. Now my mind went immediately back to what wasn’t working. I started writing about my car accident, which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I wrote one or two mornings, and at least I started. I said out loud that I would use this summer to write a draft of a book about that experience. I read a book a few weeks ago that gave me some ideas about how to frame the project. She also wrote about an accident, the physical transformations that she went through and the differences in her life that she was left with. It was perfect timing for me to run across this particular book and its perspective, a new way of looking and seeing and experiencing. I’m thinking about it a lot but not everyday. I could extend my writing from these prompts to simply take ten more minutes and add to this project until it extends even further. In the same way that I used to, after running, automatically do ten minutes of weights because I was right there, the easiest time to do it and a practice that I wanted to take on, wanted to have become automatic, a routine. What’s working is that it’s alive, has a strong heartbeat, and it could start wriggling around, demanding to be fed, walked, burped, set down to squirm, look around, explore.

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