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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.

How to Avoid Wrecking Ball Feedback

quicksand canstockphoto0054324 (2)In response to the previous post, “Feedback Should Be a Crystal Ball, Not a Wrecking Ball,” Paige McKinney observed, “Sometimes wrecking balls seem magnetic, and once they’ve hit, a writer’s stuck. Any advice on how to let go or fight the pull?”

I’ll talk about how to recover from “feedback fallout” – writer’s block and other negative effects that can result from receiving inappropriate feedback – in a future post. But first, lets talk prevention so you won’t need the cure in the future.

You’re in Charge

Every writer has the right and the responsibility to take charge of the feedback s/he receives. You can’t control what other people say or do, but you are in charge of your own actions and responses.

Set yourself up for effective feedback with 3 steps:

  1. Identify what level of feedback will be most helpful (more about levels of feedback in future posts)
  2. Tell your readers in advance what level of feedback you want
  3. Monitor the feedback as you receive it and if the feedback deviates from the level you requested, redirect the reader.

How to Redirect

redirect feedback canstockphoto5113295 (2)When redirecting a reader, be appreciative yet firm about your boundaries. “Thank you for your interest/enthusiasm/passion/etc. but what will be most helpful for me now is to keep our focus on [the feedback requested].”

If you observe another writer receiving inappropriate feedback, say something. “That’s really interesting Jack, but I think Chris asked us to focus on [requested feedback]. What do you think about [requested feedback]?”

When They Just Won’t Stop

If a reader insists on pursuing her/his own agenda – “Oh sure, I’ll get back to that in a minute. I just want to point out that blah, blah, blah” – politely, but firmly stop her/him mid-blah.

“Again, Jack, I really appreciate your enthusiasm and experience, and when the writing is ready for that kind of feedback, I’ll be eager to hear what you have to say about that. But what I really need today is to focus on [requested feedback].”

If the reader refuses to take redirection, end the feedback session. “Thank you so much. I feel complete for now.” Close your notebook and change the subject.

Don’t Sit Through the Flood

The temptation is to let the opinionated talk it out in the hopes that something valuable from will follow the flood. Don’t fall for it. After all, you wouldn’t sit in the middle of an actual floodplain while the river is overflowing because there might be something good on the ground when the waters recede.

Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We are equally entitled to decide who and what we give our attention to.

Upcoming posts will explore how to determine what level of feedback your writing is ready for.

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5 Comments on “How to Avoid Wrecking Ball Feedback”

  1. http://germany-new-rest.pp.ua April 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thanks a lot!


    • rosannebane April 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know – I didn’t know that was happening. I’ll check to see what I can do to get that fixed.


  2. I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This post posted at this website is in fact



  1. New Book Update: May the Muses Bless You with Worthy Beta Readers | Bane of Your Resistance - February 11, 2016

    […] being praised or criticized. There isn’t “good or bad” feedback (although there certainly is inappropriate feedback that writers need to refuse to take in) – it’s all information I can use to improve my […]


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