I still—almost twenty years into my career!—get a rush of bad feelings when I open up a doc full of feedback on something I or my team has written. I see that sidebar crowded with more comments than it was designed to hold and I feel some righteous anger build up inside.
Now, I know nothing good can come from diving into feedback with that mindset. So I close the doc and don't come back until those feelings have passed.
Before I return, I try to remember: I feel mad because I care about and believe in what I wrote, which is good. I feel overwhelmed by the presentation of the feedback, which is not my client’s fault; we are just using the tools we have. I am scared of being able to create a new piece that addresses all this feedback—one that I’m still proud of—but I know I have done it many times before and soon, the puzzle will start to feel fun again.
Now. Let’s take a look. Most of the feedback will be one of three types:
1. Here is a comment from an expert in the subject I want to write about. I don’t agree with the suggested phrasing, but I can understand and agree with the intent of the comment. I want what I write to be effective and accurate, after all.
2. Here is a comment I don’t understand. I ask a clarifying question and help the commenter understand my intent. Two possible outcomes: clarity on something I need to address, or agreement on something I don’t.
3. Here is a comment I disagree with. I act with respect for my clients’ expertise, and this is a moment to ask them to do the same. Two possible outcomes: they agree with me, or a larger issue is revealed and I plan a separate conversation about it.
Feedback is just an asynchronous conversation. It’s not a judgment on your writing or your clients’ intelligence. It is a moment to reconnect around your writing, understand each other more fully through it, and work together to create something that is artful, accurate, and effective.
I would never advocate for any writer to blindly accept all feedback. But I do truly believe that when you honor all feedback, when you take the time to do that work, it will make your writing better. It will make you a better writer.