September 24, 2013


Dear M,

A person recently gave some feedback about my stories. First of all, this person is a friend, one who would go to any length (sometimes to annoying lengths) to make you comfortable, so there is no question of him having any grudge against me. (I had to explain that, because that's what we writers like to believe when we get bad reviews: "his feedback is unkind because he is jealous of me".)

With that out of the way, let me also clarify that the conversation had veered to my stories by chance, after hours of going elsewhere (or nowhere) as it happens when friends get together. He said (and he had to beat around the bush a lot before he got it out) that my stories and my imagination and my creativity are great, but my language was a little overboard.

Deep breath. 
(We writers are a sensitive lot, we wish to hear that everything about our story - imagination, creativity, plot, writing, characters etc. etc. etc. - is outstanding. We don't want to be told we are not so good in some areas. When we don't like what we hear or when we hear what we don't like, we take deep breaths.)

Okay, so what does this mean, exactly? In that moment of silence when I figured out how to react (in other words, hide my disappointment or bewilderment beneath a silly grin), the topic had again veered off course. From the way he presented it, I think he meant that the beauty was ruined by the way I wrote. Deeper breath. No writer can stand such a thought.

But this stands in stark contrast to an opinion I had heard some time ago from another friend who said, my writing was so simple and straightforward that she could easily relate to it, and that my stories were beautiful because the writing seemed so effortless. (Well, I added a few adjectives here to make it sound extraordinary, but that was pretty much the essence of what she said.)

A third person, through his indirect comments, made it clear to me that though my command of the language was exceptional, my stories lacked a breath-taking quality to it, they seemed quite ordinary and normal and commonplace.

While every reader's opinion counts, it is also essential to remember a few things. Each reader is unique and the way they see things vary. What is awesome to one is tiresome to another. What is brilliant to one is childish to another. At the receiving end, our job is to decipher the meaning of what we hear and extract only what is valuable. And if we cannot extract anything quantitative or qualitative from it, toss it to one side. It will be in memory anyway and will come back to us at the right time.

Many readers who have no writing experience would be tempted to give us valuable advices. Don't under-estimate them, their analysis might be based on a vast number of books they have read. If they talk about character development in this book or that, we better listen.

We easily get put off by bad reviews. And that's okay; that's how it should be. We should have it in us to rebound and write with a vengeance. Apparently (if social media is to be believed) Ernest Hemingway said, "The first draft of anything is shit." If he doesn't know what he is talking about, then no one does.


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  1. The more I am reading from your blog, the more I am enjoying it and I can not agree more on what you say about feedback. I felt the same myself being at the receiving and giving end of negative feedback. Overall, what you say is absolutely the same way I'd conclude.