“And it isn’t even good writing.”
This was my friend’s final word in a tirade about my articles in a local newspaper. I was a staff writer, and my investigative series on the activities of the corrupt board governing our community had her all bent out of shape. Apparently, maintaining the façade of community bliss was more important than sharing the truth.
At one time, this condemnation – from a friend no less – would have crushed me. But by the time my writing had the power to enrage my friend, I had the power to just let it go.
Decades ago, it was just called “criticism.” Then it was broken up into “criticism” (bad) and “constructive criticism” (good). Today, the good and the bad have been reunited to form “feedback.” But whatever the phrase du jour, the opinions of others regarding your content can either break or build your confidence as a travel writer.
How they affect you and your writing, however, depends on how you choose to handle feedback on your travel articles.
Recently, an editor gave me a valuable tip after she had cut out an entire section of the article I had submitted. Her advice on keeping my sections to a reasonable length was to limit my word count for each section to approximately 300 words. Instead of feeling anger, sadness or frustration that a piece of my article had been consigned to the trash, I genuinely appreciated the suggestion. Then I put it into practice.
In 2013, I attended my first of two Great Escape Publishing (GEP) Ultimate Travel Writer’s workshops. Because of my background in public relations, community outreach and newspapers, I arrived in Boston with a healthy respect for the benefits of constructive input from editors and fellow writers.
One of the many things that impressed me about the GEP workshops was how feedback was not only discussed, it was practiced in real time. On the second morning, we were sent out into the city for several hours to find a story. When we returned, we were given the step-by-step formula for writing it.
After composing our first few paragraphs, we were separated into smaller groups to read our work and have it critiqued. The comments were professional and gentle, and included both praise and suggestions for making each piece better.
But reality isn’t always as nurturing. There are many who sincerely want to help you succeed. But there are also those with low self-esteem who will build themselves up by tearing you and your writing down. The trick is to identify which is which.
So, here’s my advice: It’s all a matter of analyzing the feedback you receive. If it comes from a credible source and can help you improve your writing, act on it. If, on the other hand, you receive a rant comprised of insults and negativity with no useful suggestions, do as I do – and just let it go.
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