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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Nature of Feedback and Nurturing Feedback Challenge

A number of years ago I entered my sour cream coffee cake in the county fair. I took home a second place ribbon that year with comments written on the back which have delighted me ever since. Whenever someone tries to entice me to don my apron and take up a spatula to make one they refer to it as “your award winning coffee cake.” I’m a sucker for that. Nothing like a little affirmation as a catalyst for motivation.

The online challenges I have participated in over the past 18 months are part of the reason I am thinking about the nature of feedback. Part of the allure of these challenges is the feedback. The opportunity to have others share your work and comment upon it is not only helpful, but also motivating.

During Month of Poetry, fondly referred to as MoP, this year I truly understood how I needed that kind of community. It was the catalyst for me to go out and find myself a writer’s critique group. While not comfortably settled in one yet, I am definitely working towards that goal.

While writing is something done for the self, there is also a communal aspect to the experience. The presence of a reader makes it so.

During MoP I received a great deal of support from poets from across the globe. The motivation to keep at it was provided by the forum, the structure and the feedback of others. Without feedback, without knowing that someone was reading and commenting, I find that one of my many projects takes over. I haven’t written a single poem since MoP finished.

So I am looking to join or create that sort of space for myself on a local, physical level. The time is full. This is the season for this thread in my life.

That got me thinking. When I neglect to provide feedback on something I read, I am depriving the author or artist of that support. I am receiving, but not supporting when I go away silently inspired.

I was mulling over the nature of feedback in a social media environment when I came across an article by Jane Friedman on her blog for Writer’s Digest. As always, Jane wrote a thought provoking post.

Still, my own thoughts nagged at me. The amount of information available to us means that we can never stay on top of it all. We try though, don’t we? Personally that translates into an almost feverish chase, clicking on articles, getting inspiration, “liking” or “retweeting” them. Perhaps I’ll amend the tweet with a “must read” or “brilliant.” While I do feel that social media has benefitted me greatly, I also feel that the nature of my interaction with others has changed greatly. Instead of reflecting and responding to much of what I read, I am now tending to read, acknowledge and move on to the next. While that puts me in contact with others, I do not become truly part of the conversation that way.

My comments tend to be quick blasts, sent from my iPhone. Twitter allows me to make use of those “stolen moments” – waiting in the doctor’s office, in the grocery line, waiting for my car service. It also allows me to disengage from unpleasant thoughts in useless moments. It provides a useful distraction while improving my mind and allowing me to keep in greater contact with the world around me. These are not times for composing long, thoughtful comments. My thumbs are getting enough of a workout already.

Still, while hopefully we blog and network and tweet because there is something intrinsically positive about the experience itself, a large portion of the joy is in the dialogue. I find, like a skinflint, that I’ve been tightfisted with my feedback.

These musing have led me to determine that during the month of March I am going to flex my feedback muscles.

Nurturing Feedback Challenge
March 2011
1. Except for retweets on Twitter, I plan to eschew the one word comment.
2. This month I will increase the number of comments I leave. 
3. I will try to leave more than a comment indicating that I liked what I have read. I will include information about why I liked it, what it made me think, how it benefited me, thoughts that spring to mind related to what I am seeing.
4. I will slow down and think about what I am reading and express my thanks to the author.When appropriate, I will provide a relevant link, a nugget of my own experience that is supportive or a nod of understanding.
5. I will keep track of my thoughts and experiences this month to see what effect this challenge has on my social networking experiences.

I don’t mind company. If you want to join me, I’d love to have you along for the ride.


Dana said...

Hi Lynda,
I agree with you so much. It is hard to keep up nevermind expressing gratitude or giving pertinent feedback. Coming up with meaningful comments on the run isn't easy! I do try to comment as much as possible, even if it's just to acknowledge I've stopped by but I can do better. We shall see!

purple glasses club said...

Thanks, Dana, for not only stopping by, but also for leaving such a nice comment. I've always considered you to be a great encourager, commenter and someone who adds a layer of dimension to the conversation. So you must be further ahead than you knew!

Julie Hedlund said...

What a great idea! I also find myself reading something that really makes me think or inspires me, but I stop short of commenting. I think it is the pressure to move on to the next post, tweet, whatever.

I will say though, that even a "great post" or a "thank you" is certainly better than nothing, so you should not feel bad about that if it's all you have time to do.

Katrina Germein said...

Sounds like a great challenge. Lately I've met a few people who've mentioned something from my blog. I've been surprised because I never actually knew they read it. Comments are a great way to let writers know they have an audience. Enjoy March!

purple glasses club said...

I agree that a quick comment is better than nothing. It is always nice to know that people read and enjoy. I feel that taking the time to respond will help me in several ways.

First, it will make me slow down enough to digest what I've read.

Second, it will help me to reflect on it, making it more possible that I will make use of it.

Third, I think my writing will improve. I tend to write and rewrite. I find it hard to compose quickly.

I'm going to try it this month and hope that I improve my skills.

Thanks for stopping by and your comments.

purple glasses club said...


Good points. I guess that's a good example of why writing a "good job" or "nice post" is better than reading and running.

I read your post about writers' groups this morning and think that comments are one way to expand that support. It does help to know that there is an audience.

Anonymous said...

You've definitely pondered this one, Lynda. I have a hard enough time landing on blogs (that's why I do love notifications/tweets :P - and easy direct links.) that I confess: I sometimes find myself landing and leaving without commenting. You've made me think... (I can relate to Katrina's comment too - have a number of times been surprised by spoken comments from people who read my blog - but I've never known.)

purple glasses club said...

Hi Kat,

I agree. For me the ease of checking Twitter from my iPhone means I can be connected most any time. Still, I'm not necessarily connecting if I don't hold up my end of the conversation.

Like you, I love those easy links that I get through Twitter. I've been exposed to so many new ideas that way. I'm just looking for the next level of engagement from myself, so that I can make the technology work for me instead of the other way around.

And Kat, you are always a support to those around you so I imagine landing and lurking is ok. I'm not trying for 100% for always, just to improve my percentage of engagement. Methinks, you are already there.