Get Input on Your Art
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King
If you are creating for the joy of making things, then you don’t need this advice. Everyone else, which includes people making gifts, selling crafts or submitting work, needs to get feedback.
To paraphrase from the book Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, imagine prehistoric people trying to figure out how to make bread. How would they decide what ingredients to put in, how much, cooked how long- if they were not allowed to cook and eat the bread? There was probably a lot of bad bread before they got it right.
Feedback can be intimidating. It would be nice to keep your work of art protected from the judgement of the outside. Hearing that the project you worked day and night on for months or years needs work is frustrating and disheartening. The artist herself can be blind to her flaws, or only see the flaws, or in my case, rapidly fluctuate between those two states.
Often the feedback is not what you want to hear. My friend Sandra from Quigley’s Cakes was telling me about the feedback she was getting. “I’m making all these wonderful flavors for my holiday cupcakes- eggnog, peppermint mocha, gingerbread- but the customers gravitate towards the cute designs in plain chocolate or vanilla!” Her cute designs include snowmen, reindeer, and a Santa in a snowbank that is freaking adorable.
So she takes the feedback and makes more “cute” cupcakes. But she also keeps making the flavored cupcakes, and makes some of the cute ones in the more unique flavors. This might lead to repeat business, where the customer bought a cute one and now wants a special flavor. Or maybe she will sell a majority of cute but plain flavored cupcakes and will never sell a lot of flavored ones. Her friends certainly give her feedback on those ones for gifts!
I am seeking feedback for my writing. I have joined Scribophile, which was promoted by National Novel Writing Month (winners get two premium months). It’s a credit based system where you do 4-5 writing critiques to get a critique of a chapter of your own work. I’ve earned the points and now I have to put a chapter in. NaNoWriMo is also a good resource for getting feedback- they have a forum called “novel swap” where you read someone’s novel in exchange for them reading yours. I’ve connected with three people who will look over my raw rough draft I just finished, searching for giant plot holes, character inconsistencies and late night insanity writing.
There are works of writing I did for myself, and I’m not getting feedback on those- well, actually, if I wrote it for myself, I am giving myself feedback…