Malek Allari | Editor in Chief
One of the most formidable enemies when it comes to artists and writers is the monster that I call “feedback.” Feedback is the act of giving one’s opinion and suggestion into changing something for the better, that is my definition. According to the English dictionary, feedback is a reaction or response to a particular process or activity. However, sometimes feedback might put a writer or an artist in a pinch, preventing them from writing what they want to write. For example, suppose one was given negative feedback to generate negative outcomes and thoughts. In that case, the writer or artist might be stuck in a loop where two things happen. One, they either try to fix what they have done by listening and agreeing on the feedback they had received, or two, they take a break from writing, and the phenomenon called “writer’s block” will be born, at least these are the two common reactions.
Before we dive into feedback, we should consider failure in the process, as they might be linked in the future. Failure is a common concept when it comes to life and its aspects. For example, failure is natural in creativity, and as a rule, a creative person should sometimes fail. Moreover, failure is fundamental in learning. Without failure, humankind would have never reached the heights it is now. When failing and revising what we did wrong, we learn from that failure and fix the problem or error we had done in the previous experiment. In writing, a writer might be mentally prepared for the criticism and feedback they will receive, but when it becomes too honest and harsh, their emotions will overlap. For example, suppose a writer listens and agrees silently to feedback and tries to please everyone who reads their article. In that case, they might result in a weak argument and fail to present a powerful essay. Sometimes writers avoid being criticized and submit their writings anonymously or under a pen name.
For me, I never avoided anything to avoid failure. I might have done it once or twice at some point in my life, but it was not as big an issue as any. Sometimes, I would like to avoid criticism and feedback, but I would never improve my writing. Although I said this before in my literacy narrative, I would like to assert the idea that if I do not receive any feedback and stay inside the shell called “comfort zone,” I will never be able to become the writer that I aspire to be.
I am not saying that a writer should take the feedback of anyone who just reads for the fun and entertaining side. Still, they should take the feedback from someone who dedicated their life to studying the art of writing and are fully aware that giving feedback is meant to improve the writing of a specific individual rather than discouraging them and making them fail. However, there might be people who have not devoted their lives to writing. They still did not taste the real challenge the writing world had to offer. So their feedback can be considered but taken as important as the people who experienced the writing world firsthand.
Back to feedback and how it can be helpful to writers and artists, there are many methods that people can use. I personally like the Socratic Method introduced to me from Across the Drafts by Nancy Somers. The Socratic Method is used to have a dialogue between teachers and students by asking questions and answering them inside the essay or article. For example, when a student submits their essay, and there is not enough information to the reader in the essay, the teacher will ask a question to the student, where they can put the answer inside the essay, rather than leaving it empty.
Using the Socratic Method will help the student become more open to discussing ideas and thoughts about their writing with their teachers, rather than having a strict teacher-student relationship. Suppose a teacher uses a number and checkboxes to grade their students’ essays. The student will be hesitant to have a conversation with their teacher about the essay if something is misunderstood. “You should have made it more precise in your essay,” the teacher might say, which gets on the nerves of everybody, even the angels in the sky. Satan might be more understanding than these teachers because he knows what it is like to be listened to and neglected by humans. It is frustrating when the only thing a writer receives is a number. It makes the writer feel like their work is worth that number, no matter how many improvements they made, they will always have a number.
Writing is all about words, letters, and sometimes numbers(in business and technical writing). A number that gives out the worth of an essay is illogical. As a writer myself, I would like to see what my writing is worth based on words, which gets me to my favorite form of feedback, the Sandwich Method. The Sandwich Method is when negative feedback is wrapped around praise or positive feedback. I first heard about the Sandwich Method from an Australian meme page. They make three-minute videos on workplace issues, video games logics, and other types of humor. Another scholar on the Sandwich Method is Summer Smith, a professor at Penn State. She wrote, “Usually begins with positive evaluation, moves to negative evaluation and coaching, and ends with either with coaching or positive evaluation.” (Smith, 261).
During this semester, I am in a creative writing class, where we do workshops and give feedback to one another on poems and short stories. Since we read the poems and short stories in class and do not have time to read them at our own pace, we are to give our feedback as fast as possible so that we do not take a lot of class time and allow other students to give their feedback and read their own works. That allowed me to use the Sandwich Method. I would usually begin with my overall thoughts about the poem or story, then say what can be changed to sound better or more professional, maybe change the word choice, and then end it with another positive feedback on how this poem or story will affect people and make them relate to what is happening in the story or poem.
When writers write both creative and academic works, they use different guidelines. These guidelines include word usage, grammar, and audience. However, I believe people should use different guidelines to give feedback since academic and creative writing have different writing guidelines. At times, academic work will be taken in a more important matter than a creative one. For example, sometimes, a writer writes a fiction story expressing certain feelings and ideas. When the time comes, people should give feedback on the organization and how the fiction work was written, not the ideas presented, no matter how crucial or straightforward they are. However, when these feelings and ideas are presented in academic writing, they should also be included in the feedback. The difference is that fiction and academic writing are presented to different audiences and have different purposes for existing. I believe that fiction exists to tell a story and benefit from the characters’ actions. In contrast, academic writing exists to present information and research to help society in a way or two.
Another method I like is the Student Peer Method, presented by Jaimee Weston in their article written for Federation University in Australia. Students will give their peers feedback and work together to improve their writings. The teacher interferes only when the class is stuck at a certain point and needs help to overcome it. During this class, I found it helpful when we were put into groups and gave feedback on our group members’ essays. We are helping them, but we are also discovering faults in our essays since we shifted perspective from writer to reader. That is helpful in the long run. As we publish an essay, we can confidently receive less critical feedback than our first draft. Suppose a writer submits the first draft. They will receive critical and positive feedback, with the scales tipping on the critical side. After many drafts and edits, the writer will receive less critical feedback since they worked on fixing everything from all the drafts they had done.
In my opinion, I believe that the best method mentioned in this paper is the Sandwich Method. Not only because it is easy to use and will not make the writer feel devasted after receiving much critical feedback, but it can also be used by sensitive and insensitive people. It can also be taught and used by teachers and students alike within the classroom.
Results of Feedback
I keep saying and will always say it. There is no such thing as bad writing. Some people will connect with what a writer wrote, and some will not connect to it and see you as a “bad” work. That is one of the most misconceptions about writing. When people do not connect or appreciate the time and effort put into something, a writer will feel everything but happiness and courage. However, when the time and effort are considered while giving feedback, the only thing that a writer will feel is motivation to make the essay work better and move on to the next idea on which they want to write about.
When feedback is given to the writer, there are many possible outcomes. One of the most common ones, mainly when the writer receives negative feedback, is the enemy of all, “the writer’s block.” Although there are many kinds of writer’s block, the one that comes after feedback is the “Can’t Get in the Zone” type, a serial killer. This serial killer comes from time to time. When a writer keeps getting negative feedback, the serial killer only becomes more cunning.
Writing is like a puzzle; you have to put the right pieces into the right places, no matter what the shape is; otherwise, you will only have nothing. I thought about this quote as I wrote the serial killer metaphor. It can only mean one thing, I am past my writer’s block for the time being. I was in one, and I am proud to say that. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short story based on a poem that I wrote. As I received positive feedback from my peers, one person gave me negative feedback. I was accused of sexual assault, murder, and objectifying women in that story since the story included rape and murder with descriptive details. Not only that, I quote for the feedback, “Please do not write about women like that,” which only violates and restricts the very freedom I have as a writer. When the professor also said that same thing, but he also tried to give me positive feedback, I was put at writer’s block. His feedback was tipped on the critical side more, which made me think about why it only has critical feedback, as I was proud of this story.
My writer’s block had fallen into two types. The serial killer and the “No Ideas,” which I would like to call the infant. I got stuck into a loop between the infant, where I heard its cries every single day for the past three weeks, and the serial killer, where I had to fight for my life. Although I should have learned that feedback from inexperienced beings should be taken lightly. Especially when they are students or people who only follow specific guidelines in writing and give feedback on creative writing as if it was academic. In this paper, my definition of inexperienced beings is people who did not dedicate their lives to writing. It is not a matter of experience, but a matter of their life choices and careers. Experience will play a massive part in it. Still, a writer who receives constant feedback will distinguish between a new critic and an experienced one.
This is one of the negative side effects of feedback. Now let me talk about a positive one. Three weeks ago, I started a new novel with daring philosophical and intellectual views. I am not afraid to present it to anyone, but I want to present it when it is completed. However, only one person has read it so far: my father. My father gave me feedback about my new novel. Even though he did not dedicate his life to writing, he did dedicate his life to law, rhetorics, and literature. I am not sure if my father knows that he uses the Socratic Method while giving me feedback and improving my writing. I know that he is doing it on purpose.
That purpose is to motivate me to write and complete the novel because he knows, as well as I do, that this story will become something big. My father’s feedback has been nothing but encouraging, positive, and motivating. The work I am putting it in. I will not deny that my father gave me negative feedback. Still, he fabricated it to see it before me rather than listen to what he said about it. That is how I built my definition of feedback, which is the act of giving one’s opinion and suggestion into changing something for the better.
Feedback is a way that is meant to encourage people to do something better by opinion or suggestion. It should also be as helpful and mindful as it can so that the writer will feel it in them. Feedback should not restrict a writer’s freedom, no matter what they write. Because freedom is the only thing, humans can make them as sane as now. No one wants their freedom away, and writers do not want to be restricted from negative feedback that will push them into a corner with a loaded gun to their head.
Somers, Nancy. Across the Draft: Students and Teachers Talk About Feedback. Harvard University, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sbZnoFAZ9o
The 6 Kinds of Writer’s Block(and How to Overcome Them). Yuqo, 2019. https://www.yuqo.com/the-6-kinds-of-writers-block-and-how-to-overcome-them/
The Sandwich Method of Criticism. Ionos, 2018. https://www.ionos.com/startupguide/productivity/sandwich-method/
Weston, Jaimee. Types of Feedback. Federation University. https://federation.edu.au/staff/learning-and-teaching/teaching-practice/feedback/types-of-feedback
Smith, Summer. College Composition and Communication. “The Genre of the End Note: Conventions in Teacher Responses to Student Writing.” Vol. 48, No. 2 (May, 1997). pp. 249-268. National Council of Teachers of English.