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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Most Common — and Least Suspected — Cause of Writer’s Block and Resistance

dejected canstockphoto2065099 (2)What can put a writer who is engaged, excited, committed and making real progress into a tailspin that leaves her/him deflated, defeated, demotivated and questioning if s/he can finish this piece and if s/he should write at all?

What can push a courageous writer away from a topic or particular piece of writing s/he was passionate about exploring? What can keep that writer away from that piece/topic/genre for years and, in some cases, forever?

What can distract a writer from her/his original vision and send her/him on a wild goose chase writing something someone else thinks s/he should write?

What shuts writers up and shuts writers down?

If you’re thinking “rejection,” you’re in the ballpark. If you’re thinking “rejection disguised as ‘constructive criticism’ from people the writer thought were her/his peers and supporters” aka “critique” or “bad feedback,” you hit it out of the park.

Recently, I’ve coached several clients around and through difficult issues raised by feedback. Feedback can be helpful, but more often than not, it’s the wrong kind of feedback, requested or given at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.

Even well-intentioned feedback can be harmful. And when it’s malicious, it’s unexpected and profoundly damaging. And yet, writers continue to think they have to have it and that “real writers” can “take it.”

I’m going to write a series of posts on feedback and guess what? I want your feedback! No, actually I want your input. There is a significant difference between feedback and input and I may write about that.

Please tell me what questions you have about feedback and what your experiences have been. Have you received good feedback or bad feedback, or both? How has feedback helped, how has it hurt? When does feedback work, when is it best avoided? Have you been the receiver, witness or giver of feedback?

Questions, opinions, defense or indictment, long or short stories about feedback, please send them all via comment here or email me at Rosanne @RosanneBane.com (just take the space out before the @). Let me know if I can quote you and if so, whether you want to remain anonymous or be referred to by your initials or name.

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10 Comments on “Most Common — and Least Suspected — Cause of Writer’s Block and Resistance”

  1. Anonymous April 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Great topic. When soliciting feedback and you hear about something you need to improve, use the Rule of Three: wait until three different individuals found an issue/agree on the same confusing/clumsy/or otherwise unclear text, then make the change.


    • rosannebane April 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      The rule of three is a good strategy, but I find it only works if you’re getting the right kind of feedback at the right time…


  2. Judy Reeves March 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Roseanne. I know from personal experience how criticism can do harm, but I also know critique is valuable to me as a writer and to those writers I work with. I wanted to pass along a list of what I found the differences to be between critique and criticism. (This is from my book, “Writing Alone, Writing Together.”)

    Criticism finds fault
    Critique looks at structure

    Criticism looks for what’s lacking
    Critique finds what’s working

    Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand
    Critique asks for clarification

    Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue
    Critique is positive (even about what isn’t working)

    Criticism is vague and general
    Critique is concrete and specific

    Criticism has no sense of humor
    Critique insists on laughter, too

    Criticism looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing
    Critique addresses only what is on the page


    • rosannebane March 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks Judy! I’m not sure exactly sure where, but I’ll include your comments in the upcoming posts.


  3. Joel D Canfield March 28, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    This is going to be good.

    I’ve spent years teaching myself to ignore the wrong criticism and embrace the right stuff. I just finished Martin Seligman’s “Learned Optimism” which provides some amazing tools we can use to make that lesson easier to learn. I summarized two actionable points from the book here:


    What’s hardest for me has been the silence from my family. Not my wife; she’s my biggest fan. But siblings, my mother: zero interest in my business books, my mysteries, my music.

    Useless criticism from non-fans? I’ve taught myself to shake off the sting and ignore it. But indifference from people I love is hard.

    The one time I wrote a song Best Beloved didn’t wholeheartedly embrace in an instant, I abandoned it for 3 years. Just the past month I’ve started working on another arrangement which she’ll love, and which will let me finish the song. But it’s not what I originally heard in my head, so if I get that far, then I’ll still want to record the “real” version. But I can’t do that if I can’t even finish it.


    • rosannebane March 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks Joel! I’m not sure exactly what the next posts will be, but I’m sure I’ll include your comments. And I’ll check out Learned Optimism.


  4. Charity March 28, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    I have a long and varied (and sometimes painful) relationship with feedback. Oddly enough, even praise has paralyzed me. I end up thinking: Well, no way I can top that. Might as well quit while I’m ahead.

    I’ve been on all sides: giving, receiving, bystander. I will try to email you or come back and comment with a few stories later. I’m interested in this series, and will definitely be back to read if nothing else.


    • rosannebane March 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Thanks Charity. Some of the most blocked students I’ve had in classes attribute their resistance to praise from a teacher/writer they highly respected. Thanks for the insight into your thinking about quitting when you’re ahead. I’m not sure exactly what the next posts will be, but I’m sure I’ll include your comments.



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