The Importance of Being Earnest (When Giving Feedback)
Being a writing major in college, I sat through a fair share of writing workshops. They were my favorite – and most hated – part of writing. A workshop is a great opportunity for a piece of writing to grow and become better. But it’s hard to put a piece of writing, something I poured my heart into, out for public scrutiny. You do develop a thick skin to criticism, though. It was workshops that helped me turn two pieces of fiction from disjointed character studies into published material.
During my senior seminar, I had a piece of fiction I put up to be workshopped. It was a rough first draft, and neither of the two lead characters were fully developed. Two of my classmates ripped me in two for the minimal voice and portrayal I gave the female character. It got to the point that the professor had to step in and defend my writing. Long story short, I rewrote the entire piece, and lost faith in and abandoned the initial story line. Even though I received a number of compliments on the story from the others in class, the negative feedback I received had much more of a profound and lingering effect on me and on my writing. I second-guessed everything I wrote after that until others in the class reassured me that I was producing quality work.
I’ve noticed the same thing in writing for clients. The best thing a client can do for me is let me write the content, then come back with what they like and don’t like about what I’ve written. I’m not looking for praise; I want to know what I can do better. I rarely get defensive over critiques, and I know to take each suggestion in stride. A good writer can adjust for style and voice, and can fix any content that’s incorrect. That’s all part of the process.
When you’re working with content writers, make sure you do just that: work with them. Give them all of the information you want them to have, let them do the writing, and give them the best constructive feedback you can. If you like a particular phrasing in one section and want to see it applied throughout, tell the writer. If you see inconsistency in voice, tell the writer. More than anything, though, trust the person writing your content. Don’t be a backseat writer. Let the writer do the writing, and provide constructive feedback. You’ll be happy with the content.