Monday, February 6, 2012

Handling Honest Feedback - Jenny Smith

Walking through my friend’s door, I knew it was going to be a hard conversation. She had wanted to discuss my work, “privately”.  My friend had taken a red pen to the troubled areas of a piece I had written. There was more trouble than not.
Some of what she was sharing I could understand. I do struggle greatly with the grammar aspect of writing. But the hard part was listening to her views on the overall piece and whether it worked or not. It didn’t work for her. 

As she began to tell me why it didn’t work, I could feel the tears well up. I held them at bay, nothing worse than hearing your work doesn’t quite pass, and crying too. The experience ended and I walked out the door holding my heart in my hands marked up with red ink.

I drove home and wondered why I even tried to write, I couldn’t seem to do it very effectively.

The day wore on, my life with a husband and kids, doesn’t leave me a whole lot of time to fall apart. But the night is different. Lying in the bed I cried. I tried so hard. I had rewritten, prayed over, and rewritten again, with nothing to show for it but red inked pages.

So, how do we handle honest feedback?

I did three things. First, I cried and told God it wasn’t fair, if He wanted me to write couldn’t He make me more talented at it? How hard could that be for Him? This was an important part for me, I needed to take the time to pour out my heart to God, so He could pour in His Spirit in the hurting places.

Secondly, I sat down and determined what the majority of the mistakes were. In my case, many of them were grammar. I knew I had already begun to address that issue by taking a writing course which contained a lot of grammar exercises.  I looked to see what else my friend had to say. Could I see what she was pointing out? A sentence didn’t flow, or one didn’t make any sense. Could I rewrite them clearer? Or were they even needed?
I looked at the portions that were clean. When I really looked, the red ink was most noticeable but not the majority of the words. What worked for her? What sentences did she underline as really good? Were they my main points? I asked myself was she my target audience with the piece? In this case, she’s not. I thought through how they could have affected her views.  

Once I put the feedback into a proper perspective my view changed. Learning to distinguish between areas I needed to grow and areas where it could simply be the reader has been critical to me being able to work with honest feedback. I’m pretty sure as we go to Boot Camp we may have the opportunity for our work to be critiqued. I hope these three steps help us as we go through the process of learning. 

Jenny teaches at her local church, conferences, retreats, banquets or wherever women gather to hear hope from God's Word for their lives. She is a graduate of She Speaks and can often be found surrounded by books, pen in hand, writing in her favorite notebook. She loves country life in Adairsville, Georgia with her husband, Chad and three daughters. You can visit with Jenny at