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WTF: Watch That Feedback! September 14, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Humor, Mindfulness, Writing & Writers.

When a reader in cyberspace says, “Excellent post!” or “WOW!” . . . should we accept those words at face value?  

If so, what is their “face value”?  Does the feedback mean:

(a) the piece is perfect with no room for improvement

(b) the reader agrees 100% with the opinions expressed

(c) the reader is sarcastically tossing ACKolades at the writer to poke fun

(d) the reader is saying what they think the writer wants to hear (in order to entice the writer to reciprocate?)

(e) the reader thinks the work in question is excellent . . . vis-a-vis the 213 text messages they received that day

(f) the reader felt the author got their points across without undue stuttering

The answer most often is “g” . . . Who knows?  Your guess is as good as mine.

If we want to grow as writers, we need to be careful about internalizing favorable (and unfavorable) feedback from casual readers and fans since it is difficult (if not impossible) to measure the “face value” of the accolades  (or ACKolades)  tossed our way.  

Among other things, when we use external feedback to evaluate the worth of our words, we may be lulled into complacency if we consistently receive “kudos” from readers.

* Why edit to polish our words if the champagne is already flowing?

* Why fine tune grammar and punctuation when accolades are rolling in? 

As writers, it doesn’t matter whether our audience agrees with our view of the world ~ some will, some won’t.  That’s a given.  

What matters is that we make an effort to express our thoughts eloquently, persuasively, and without unnecessary distraction from misplaced commas and misspelled words.  

When we rely on our internal barometer to measure the worth of our words, we  know whether the post in question is our best effort.  We know what we are using as a frame of reference (Tolstoy vs. Txt Msg).  We know we are evaluating the clarity of the writing, not our agreement (or disagreement) with the author’s point of view.  

And we know we are not tossing out insincere platitudes to curry favor.  

As writers, we are in the driver’s seat.  We have the best vantage point.  We know where we wanted to go with the piece, and whether getting from Point A to Point B will be smooth sailing for our readers . . . or a roller coaster ride  down a dirt road riddled with potholes.  

If we receive a “standing ovation” for every submission we post, even when we know that the post in question does not warrant that level of acclaim, we need to tune out the applause long enough to listen to our inner editor. 

We need to evaluate what we write, and the feedback we receive, in light of our own experience and writer’s voice.

We need to WTF:  Watch That Feedback! . . . not mindlessly gobble up praise to feed our ever-hungry egos.

Oh, what do I mean when I tell YOU that your post is AWESOME? 

Well, it depends . . . either I liked the writing, or the subject matter, or the thought provoking nature of the post, or the poetic cadence, or the pictures and graphics, or the memories and images it evoked, or I agreed with the opinions you expressed, or I felt you needed a dose of  encouragement, or I saw real improvement, or  . . . G . . . your guess is as good as mine.         

Related posts:  A Writer’s Life For MeOur Field of Dreams * Our Internal CompassAuthor’s Voice: How To Find It? (Global Mysteries) * Bats, Writing Groups, and Submissions (Here Be Dragons)


1. cindy - September 14, 2010

I often struggle with the subject of this post, I want to let the writer know that I have read it and that I will continue to read his/her posts. But what do I say on return visits?
Have often thought of creating a signature comment “Cindy was here”, but that too would become an ambiguous platitude with time.
*claps hands*

nrhatch - September 14, 2010

People should leave whatever feedback they want . . . and writers (who want to stay “at the top of their game”) should be cautious about absorbing the words “as is.”

It’s all too easy to develop an inflated (or deflated) ego when the accolades are flowing.

Puffs out chest . . . thanks for the applause! ; )

2. Agatha82 - September 14, 2010

Sometimes I just click on the “like” clicky thing and say nothing. Usually when I’m busy but I also do it to let the person know I did read their post and/or liked it. For me, I tend to just kind of give my opinion on what the post means or reminds me of.

nrhatch - September 14, 2010

Same here, Alannah.

I’m more inclined to address the substance of the post than the writing itself . . . unless a sentence or two truly resonates wtih me due the cadence or flow.

3. Paula - September 14, 2010


nrhatch - September 14, 2010

Ha Ha! Such a funny girl. 8)

4. souldipper - September 14, 2010

:Yeay Nancy! I was just discussing this with a friend today. S/he has fallen into the trap of feeling s/he has to entertain readers and has been sliding off her writing objective.

If a blogger’s self esteem is established by the number of readers, subscribers, comments, etc., that is a highly slippery slope.

I love honesty. I feel that charm, flattery and undue compliments are forms of dishonesty. If the encouragement I have received from other writers and readers (esp. those who contact me outside of the blog) is dishonest, I may be gauging and targeting inappropriately for my writing purpose.

The same applies to the awards-giving-gestures.

Thanks, Nancy, for bringing this out and shining the spotlight on it. Much appreciated.

nrhatch - September 14, 2010

As writers, we need to listen to our inner voice first and our audience second.

If we’re not satisfied with a piece, we should keep at it until we are pleased with its tone and flow.

I strive to be honest with my feedback, to have real “weight” behind my words, rather than just “empty” gestures.

5. Julie - September 15, 2010

I almost always try to say something specific about a post – why I liked it, how it made me think about things differently, etc. “Great post,” is just not very much to go on (and those comments can sometimes end up in spam folders anyway).

I totally agree that we need to listen to ourselves first. We have to write from the heart. If what we write doesn’t resonate with ourselves, how can it resonate with others?

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

My favorite posts are the ones that make me think about things differently . . . or that remind me of things I want to recall.

Paula - September 15, 2010

And yours always remind me of something (even if it’s my own work!), which I always enjoy – they give me ideas, and often food for my rants, although since becoming a grandmother, my rants are less frequent! It has only been a week, though! I feel quite certain they will start up again, and I will soon be ranting and/or reflecting again.

Comments – especially SPECIFIC comments are always welcomed, which is why I strive for more readers. BUT, my desire for more readers is always tempered with the fact that I am who I am, and my posts in my blog are primarily for my own writing exercise and brain de-cluttering, and will never be altered for the sake of more readers. However, since I am always growing and changing, I have always reserved the right to change my mind about certain issues, and I sometimes do!

(Have you no mondegreens to add to my first comment? :-D)

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

You mean mondegreens in response to your comment on Fun with Words: Mis-Interpretations?

Nope. I usually learned the lyrics to favorite songs by reading the album cover or inserts. There are one or two songs with a phrase I’ve never quite caught, but none that sprung to mind as I read through your impressive list.

With respect to your other comment . . . like you, I always reserve the right to change my mind as further evidence filters in.

6. mizzezmellymel - September 15, 2010

As Cindy stated, I like to let the writer know that I was there. I do expect honesty when people comment on my own posts because that’s what I’m dishing out.

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

Me too.

If I have nothing “nice” to say
I tend to slink away 8)

mizzezmellymel - September 15, 2010

LOL…I’m sorry, I don’t know if it’s the late hour or just my warped sense of humor, but the phrase “slink away” just gave me a huge belly laugh! I have this image of someone in a trench coat literally tipping quietly away from a blog post that wasn’t satisfying, trying very hard to be unnoticed and leaving everything the way they found it…untouched.

nrhatch - September 16, 2010

Yup. That’s me!

And because I’m barefoot . . . I can be very, very quiet.

7. Naomi - September 16, 2010

Thanks, Nancy, for some healthy perspective…and others for a few great chuckles!! That’s often a welcome side benefit of sincere comments 😀

nrhatch - September 16, 2010

I’m with you, Naomi.

I enjoy a side of comedy with the comments.

8. Katherine Mitchell - October 12, 2010

Came upon this post through my friend Kirk Weisler’s blog. I still use my degree in English now and then but have found it is greatly over rated as a tool in critiquing blogs. I don’t even check my spelling anymore most of the time I write as most people don’t know the difference. When I come across a message that interests me, I try to comment. Your message was definitely thought provoking. Miscommunication is the root of most of the disagreements in the world today. It happens in my own home and at world government conferences. We all need to learn to be clearer in saying what we mean and make sure we were correctly understood.

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