Sunday, April 4, 2010

Another Set of Eyes: Some Obvious Advice

I went through a creative drought after graduate school, and although I'm still a bit dehydrated, I think I'm recovering well.  Writers out there, only you know the anguish of not writing.  It's serious stuff!  But again, I'm recovering, and I owe it in no small way to other writers.  I am confident I will be fully recovered one day, but this confidence came after I addressed another interrelated and serious problem. (Go figure, right?) You see, as I replenished myself with a few words a day, a story a week, I realized that I no longer had a paid audience of teachers and mentors to read my work.

Being a teacher myself now, I tell my students that, when revising, they need readers (at least one), who will tell them the truth about their writing and provide feedback. I think this is true no matter how long a person has been toiling away the business.  Writers need second opinions.  And these second opinions must be somewhat objective (sorry, Mom).  Without some feedback, we are privy to assume that the readers of our final drafts think the way we do, and this can lead to logic errors, especially when writing fiction.

I've been reading a lot of work lately.  For some reason, since my book came out friends, family, writing center visitors, and people I don't know have been chucking their stories at me for opinions.  I want to be clear: I don't mind.  I love giving my opinion and reading others' works.  But, these relationships (for the most part) are unbalanced.  I realized recently that I rarely chuck my own stuff before submitting it, and this is a problem.  As a result of a long habit of keeping my writing to myself until I thought it perfect, it took me a long, long time and a graduate degree to learn that there is a clear divide between revised work and polished work.

Now, I've made it a sort of resolution to try to get feedback from at least one person, preferably a writer whose work I admire, before submitting anything.  Even if I don't agree with another's critique it's important to consider all feedback before dismissing it.  This is how a writer can continue to grow, even after the terminal MFA.


  1. I am in complete agreement about what you're saying, but totally creeped out by the eyes!

  2. Very interesting post Jen, and I don't think you are alone with your attitude to the craft of writing. The compulsive - need - to write is something I share, and another set of eyes is vital.

    Thank you, Stuart


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