Most writers agree that getting feedback is the best way to improve and grow. However, many writers have a hard time receiving feedback from others: they take it personally, get defensive, or even angry.
Writers can transform their lives and careers when they make use of positive and negative feedback. Managing your emotions and becoming receptive to the information people are giving you will turn that feedback into a gift.
Here are eight ways to make it happen.
1. Understand and manage your emotions
Being criticized can spark the kinds of emotions our ancestors experienced when confronted by a saber-toothed tiger. Our bodies fill with adrenaline and cortisone, our blood rushes out of our brains and into our extremities so we will be prepared to kill something or run for our lives. Is that any way to learn?
It may feel like you are being attacked when people criticize your work, but that is not their intent. Every writer who is any good (or trying to improve) lets their peers read and critique their work on a regular basis. You should too, but it won’t help if you’re freaking out the whole time.
If you are entering a situation where you might be getting critical feedback, take some deep breaths and do whatever you need to do to calm down. That way, you will have the presence of mind to actually hear what the other person is trying to tell you.
2. Get the feedback in writing or record it
Especially if you cannot maintain a relaxed state of mind when you’re getting feedback, you might want to get it in writing or record what people have to say.
This will allow you to revisit it later, follow up on all the suggestions offered, and give it more thought.
Or, if it would help you to remain calm, cast yourself as an impartial note taker and scribble down what you are hearing. You can think about how it applies to you and your writing at a later time, when you are better able to be receptive.
3. Get used to getting feedback in different situations
With writing, editors, clients, and other writers will take out the red pen and help you express yourself better.
If it stresses you out to get feedback, you can teach yourself to get used to it by exposing yourself to different situations (preferably doing something you enjoy) where you will receive it.
Taking music lessons, a class, or performing in a play are activities where you will be put on the spot. Consistently doing things that open you to feedback will help you feel like getting criticism and praise are routine parts of life.
4. Get useful input before there are consequences
Get your story proofread before you hand it in to the client. Have your sales letter peer-reviewed before you send it out in the mail. Show your website to a few friends before you make it live.
Get as much feedback as you can when doing so is risk free.
5. Consider where the advice is coming from
Not everyone’s advice will be equally useful. Imagine if you were coaching a child’s soccer team. You might get some fresh insight from a fellow parent on the soccer field, but the feedback you get from your assistant coach will have more meaning.
The same is true of your writing. Feedback from a fellow copywriter will hold more weight and likely be more valuable than feedback from a friend with no marketing experience.
6. Keep track of what you hear
Many writers keep a notebook of all the compliments they receive, printouts of thank you letters and emails, and even check stubs.
Keeping a record of positive feedback is a wonderful way to lift your spirits when things are going tough and remind yourself that people do appreciate your work.
Also keep track of criticism. It may help you see patterns that will lead you to improve your writing at a faster pace.
7. Seek out answers to improve other areas of your business
Honing your writing craft is important, but there is more to running a writing business than just writing.
Although it can be hard to hear, whenever possible, ask potential clients why they’ve said no to your proposals. Decide whether their feedback can improve your next proposal.
Ask friends to sign up for your newsletter and tell you whether there are any snags in your sales funnel. Find out if there are any problems in the way you present yourself or do business and fix them as soon as possible.
8. Look forward to solving problems
Acting on negative feedback is the fastest way to increase your skill level. Your talent develops as you learn to overcome obstacles. And those who you view with the most talent just don’t seem to have any obstacles. You should look forward to finding obstacles and problems because when you work through them, you break through to a new level of aptitude.
Feedback is one of the surest paths to improving your skills. Learning how to be receptive to what others say about your writing will help you reach a higher level of success.