Sometimes we get so caught up in the desire for response to our writing, we forget to screen the sources of that feedback. But all readers are not equal.
Find Readers Who Are Right for Your Writing
When asking for feedback, choose people whose opinions you respect and who have the experience, interest and emotional intelligence to respond in useful ways.
Your readers should be familiar and experienced with your genre. Poets don’t need to hear “I don’t really get poetry. What’s it supposed to mean?” Essayists don’t want their draft to be the first personal essay their readers have seen since their last English Lit class years ago.
Readers who don’t read a particular sub-genre like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, etc., will have questions about techniques and elements that typical readers of that genre will understand immediately. Be careful about how much time you invest explaining the conventions of your genre compared to how much time you spend talking about your writing.
More importantly, readers who are familiar you’re your genre are better prepared to notice and bring your attention to nuances and opportunities you might otherwise miss.
Who to Kick Out of Your Reader Pool
Most writers face resistance at some time, so resistance certainly isn’t a disqualifier. But be wary of writers who seem more invested in their resistance than their writing. You don’t need a partner in creating excuses or commiserating about how “awful publishing is these days.”
Be careful around writers who have severe inner critics; some of that caustic inner dialogue may leak onto to you and your writing. You and your readers need to be aware of your own Saboteur and alert to the possibility of one person’s Saboteur activating another’s Saboteur.
Be equally cautious of writers or situations that are highly judgmental. (more about the distinction between judgment and discernment) If, for example, you notice workshop participants “scoring points” by criticizing other students, don’t open yourself for attack in that environment.
What other welcome signs or warning signs do you look for before asking for feedback?