Writing is like a tree. Feedback is like a fence.

To clarify: writing is not like all trees. Or maybe writing is like all trees, but for the purposes of this metaphor, it’s like just one kind of tree. Specifically, the kind that grows around fences. You know the one I’m talking about. That knobby, ugly, malformed trunk that has scabbed up around and subsequently consumed the obstacle that had the audacity to get in its way. It goes like this:

“I’m an achingly beautiful tree! I’m going to grow up big and strong and-”
“I AM A FENCE.”
“Oh, hello! Welcome to the neighborhood!”
“I AM A FENCE.”
“It’s a pleasure to make your–well, aren’t you snuggly. I hate to be a pain in the roots, but do you think you could just move a couple inches away? So that I may continue to grow, gloriously and unimpeded?”
“I AM A FENCE.”
“Sheesh.”

Which inevitably leads to this:

2014-06-13 10.39.53

Yet the tree has emerged victorious! It looks nothing like it had originally envisioned, but it still got to grow and thrive and possibly befriend a little boy, only to get its heart ripped out in the end.

In this terribly cobbled-together scenario, your writing is the tree, and feedback is the fence. Sometimes, when you get feedback, it feels like a giant obstacle slapped right up in your face. No matter how helpful it may be, it seems as though your manuscript is a failure. This character didn’t work. These jokes don’t make sense. That plot twist suggests you might need to see a psychiatrist.

But after the initial “WHY MUST YOU SUCK, FENCE” feelings wear off, I gotta say: I love tackling feedback. Picking it apart, answering questions that never even crossed my mind. The best part about hearing “this doesn’t work” is getting to figure out something else that does. More often than not, I like the new stuff better.

So don’t let the fence get you down. Grow around it. It’s time to get ugly.

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