Thursday, March 26, 2015

Suggestion to make all writing programs much better

I have had to receive a lot of feedback at work lately. Decisions are being made on money. There isn't enough to give raises to everyone who deserves one. So that means management has to give lame excuses for not giving raises--and even they know they're lame.

My managers offered to give me feedback in person. I said just e-mail it to me. I think management feels this is a great shame to them to not meet face-to-face with their people. I think this is the only way to do these feedback sessions. You're going to tell me some stuff about work I put everything I had into, and not all of it's going to be good. And you know I'm going to disagree with some of what you say, and you know there's a chance I might have some valid points. Let's not complicate all that by letting emotion come into it. Send it to me so I can read it when nobody is around. Let me fume about it in the stairwell. Or let me never read it. Ever. Maybe I don't want to know what it says.

This is also how writing programs should work. Feedback should go either on a group page or directly to the writer. The writer can do whatever the hell he wants with the feedback. But he doesn't have to hear criticism of what he put everything he had into in front of 5-20 other writers.

Benefits:

-I can ignore people whose opinions I don't care about, and focus on those I do. Seriously, your story about children with super powers in the wake of a nuclear holocaust is stupid. I don't want to take any advice you have.
-This can lead to honest, deep relationships between writers who have similar literary values and goals. They can continue to correspond "off line" from the class as much as they want.
-No time is wasted with talking writers down from their emotional responses. They can take time on their own to recover before needing to respond.
-I feel like this might add to specificity. If you had to tie your comments to actual parts of the text with a MS comments format, it might help avoid useless generalisms that were born of overworked students not really putting any thought into their feedback.

What should you do in class instead? Maybe have the instructor--the supposed professional in the room--talk craft, take questions about craft, etc. Seriously, you don't go to biology and spend the whole time talking about one person's experiment. You talk about mitochondria, and then you go do science on your own. Why doesn't writing do this?

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