Much like Audrey II in the Little Shop of Horrors I have a craving. While my craving isn’t human flesh, it does grow more intense as it’s fed.
My craving is feedback. When I finish a bit of writing that I’ve struggled over, I want to be fed: Did you understand his motivation? Was her coyness overplayed? Can you see where I’m going with this? Or, any one of a hundred alternative inquiries. In the end, they all boil down to: Did you like it?
Then I rewrite the piece, and it starts over again. My almost infinitely patient Alpha Reader A.K.A. wife had suffered through my addiction for more than a reasonable period when she finally had enough. “I’ll read it when you’re done. Leave me be until then.” She didn’t mean “done” as in published. She meant “done” as in “I” think it’s done. Don’t be so sensitive, I think, but I say, “Yes Dear.”
Feed me, Seymour—even the Dentist hasn’t been enough. So, I send the first chapter of my WIP to a Beta Reader client, and a literature professor to boot, and ask for her thoughts. She gives me insightful comments based on the chapter; however, they feel off as if she were reading a different story. Oh well. It’s not her genre, I tell myself.
Okay, I can do this. I quit cigarettes, ergo I can quit anything, I tell myself. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my repeated attempts to quit cigarettes failed for decades until I had a spinal cord injury and spent several months in hospitals. But that’s a different story.) I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.
I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.
Is there a moral to this story? Sure, there is. Don’t seek feedback until you’ve vetted your work thoroughly. Once you’ve done that, do it once more after letting it rest a bit and reading it as you would as a beta reader and then revise again. Then you may seek feedback from third parties. Analyze the feedback and apply what feels right and throw the rest in the trash bin. Don’t keep feeding Audrey II.
I know. I won’t do it either.
David P. Cantrell © 2016.