It’s 1AM. You’re exhausted. Print is swimming before your eyes. Spell check and grammar check say it’s good. You know that’s a false sense of security. If only someone else could take a quick look at it for you. You need affirmation that it makes sense. Maybe you should have made that WaCC appointment that wasn’t required after all. We’ve all been there. Below are 10 reasons a good writer needs feedback:
- Leaving out the obvious. I once worked with a junior high student who was writing a science-fiction story about a horrifically scary monster who was terrorizing an entire town. What we, the reader, did not know was what his monster looked like. Innocently, I asked him if it was pink with delicate fairy wings. Appalled, he retorted, “Are you kidding? It’s humongous, green, and covered in scales.” “Okay,” I responded. “You need to tell us that.”
- Considering the importance of audience. You may not care if it’s an email to your best buddy, but what if it’s a professor or an editor you are trying to impress? Consider the bigger picture. What’s at stake? What if your piece of writing is the only thing someone will see about you? What if that piece of writing has to get your foot in the door for an in-person job interview, or a graduate program? Is the tone appropriate? The word choice?
- Achieving clarity. What if that acronym you figured everybody knows your reader is unfamiliar with? I once thought “lol” was “lots of love.” It’s laugh out loud. I once determined that “Woot” was an acronym that stood for “We’re out of town,” never guessing it was not even an acronym. These are silly examples, but they do show that again, keeping in mind your audience, you may need to define terms.
- Focusing. You may have gotten to where you intended in your writing, but how did your reader feel about their journey getting there? Did they feel like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of bread crumbs, or worse, like Harry trapped in the Hedge Maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? It’s hard to be the judge yourself since you already know where you are going in your writing. You designed the maze.
- Recognizing Resources. They’re everywhere from writing centers, peers, parents, to your younger brother who is a whiz at spelling. Use them.
- Managing word count. What if it’s too long and you don’t know where to cut? What if you’re attached to every word? Another set of eyes may catch your love for being verbose and unnecessary things like qualifiers or excess adjectives. Or what if it’s too short and you don’t know where to add? Where might your reader want to hear more or need more explanation? Again, another set of eyes can help.
- Eliminating repetition. Sometimes we feel so good about what we have to say that we say it, and say it, and say it. Be careful. Don’t beat your reader over the head with your ideas. Respect their intelligence and their memory.
- Proofing your own writing. This impossible task is possibly a loose, not a win situation. We’ve all proofed that paper, submission to an editor, or job resume, only to find that immediately after we hit the “send” button, a glaring error jumps out at us. Spellcheck is not fool proof. The typo above would have slipped on by since both “loose” and “lose” are indeed words…but only one is the correct word from a usage standpoint. Spellcheck doesn’t think.
- Recognizing burnout. It’s inevitable at some point. You just can’t face that piece of writing anymore and you shouldn’t. You may have entered into that endless death spiral of editing and you can’t stop. You need a break and some fresh eyes for anything remotely productive to occur at this point.
- Seeking Greatness. The last reason is also the simplest. Although you may be a good writer, why not aspire for more? Why not use every avenue, every resource available to you to be all you can be as a writer. Remember to be open to input, be willing to let go, watch your ego and see where that feedback takes you. You’re already a good writer. Why not be a great writer?
Linda L. Dodge 5/2013