The Gift of Feedback? By Georgie Tennant

What is the funniest feedback you’ve ever received? As the accidental author of eight phonics books, working with an editor on those has been a source of much amusement.

In one of the most recent books I wrote, I was working on a story where I had to get maximum use out of one syllable words with j, v and w in them – harder than you might think. The story that I crafted had Dad wanting to jog with his daughter Jen and wanting to win but having to face various perils such as slipping in the mud and a dog jumping up at him (all without using most of those words!). To maximise the phonics, my story culminated in a “jam van” pulling out and gently knocking Dad over. My editor suggested that this was too much of a deadly peril for a book for 5 – 7 year olds. We had a good giggle about it and it was edited so that Jack the Jam Man ran into Dad and Dad had jam all over him – “much less deadly,” I replied to my editor.

Amusing though this experience was, feedback often isn’t quite so chucklesome is it? On the leadership course I mentioned I was doing in last month’s blog, this week’s session was fortuitously on the subject of giving and receiving feedback – fortuitous as it was something I have had to face in my own (more serious, non-phonics related!) writing, recently. There were a number of useful insights, which I thought worth passing on here.

Firstly, why is feedback so difficult – to give and receive? We pondered the following: there is room for misinterpretation; it can feel like a personal attack; we might react, or be reacted to badly; it contains within it a lot of underlying fears of rejection; it can be upsetting.

This is true in my experience. I am going through the process of working with an editor to write a devotional book. It is my first experience of this. After each entry, I send it off for perusal and feedback. After the first one came back with a full page and a half of edits, I have to admit I reacted exactly as described above. Wonderful ACW chums to the rescue, I splurged my less-than-positive emotions about the process on a few willing victims. They all reassured me that this was all normal and I should not, because of the feedback, declare an embargo on all writing forever.

With their help, and a kind comment from my editor, I have been able to start seeing feedback differently. He said “it’s my job to make sure this book is the best it can be.” Along with some of the thoughts from the course, it helped me to reframe my thinking on feedback. The course leader encouraged us to see feedback not as criticism and rejection, but as a gift – but one we have to be willing to put aside our egos to receive. Feedback can help us (and our writing) to grow, develop and improve – but not if we get defensive and insist our writing and our lives are perfect already.

Of course, we don’t have to act on every piece of feedback we receive – even our editors’. But if we can be open-minded and humble, the things others see in our work, both positive and negative can help shape it for the better.

A final note – we don’t give nearly enough positive feedback or encouragement to one another. We simply don’t. As the Bible says “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today,” (Hebrews 3 v 13) make it your aim to do exactly that this week.

Do drop a comment with any tips you have for dealing with feedback, or tell us the funniest feedback you’ve ever received.

Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 14 and 11 who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone.'  More recently, she has written 5 books in a phonics series, published by BookLife and has just written 3 more. She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog:

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