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How Receiving Feedback is Sort of Like Dying - and How to Survive It!

When was the last time someone challenged you to the point that it made you either want to quit, die or to become a better writer?

How to Make the Feedback Process Work for You:

Probably one of the most difficult experiences a writer can have is to be challenged on his or her writing during a feedback session.  Let’s face it, negative feedback sucks.  However, some of these challenges can lead to doors opening in your mind which can lead to writing at a higher level.  After much pondering I have decided that writers take in feedback much in the same way that dying people travel through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief.  Yes, I realize that I am comparing receiving feedback on your writing to death – but I’m going with it.   Follow me for a second…

The stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA, include: (adapted from

  1. Denial — “My Writing is Fine.  They are all wrong.”  Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.
  2. Anger — “Why are they targeting me? It’s not fair!  They just don’t get it or what I am trying to do.  They are cruel, out of touch, mean-spirited and judgemental!”   Once in the second stage, the writer recognizes that the denial cannot continue. But in the stage of anger the writer can get caught up in misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
  3. Bargaining — “I’ll do anything if I don’t have to re-write it.  Can’t I just re-arrange a few things or maybe trim a little bit instead of re-writing it? The third stage involves the hope that the writer can somehow minimize, postpone or avoid the dreaded re-write.
  4. Depression — “I’m so upset by this feedback, why bother with anything?  I will never get better, this process hurts too much, I must really suck, I’ll never get it”. The fourth stage is a dangerous area because the negative feelings can turn inward.  While it is perfectly normal to dance with your inner critic, you gotta know when it’s time to kick him off the floor.  Be careful not to let your inner critic run amuck here.
  5. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay. Even though I felt a little wounded, I can stick with the process, in fact I think I may see a way to take the feedback and make my writing stronger”;  In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their ability to take in feedback – to realize that they won’t die or whither – and that they can face the re-writing process once again.  And yes – even hone their chops and become stronger creative beings in the process.

Here are some simple take away tid bits when it comes to receiving and surviving feedback.

When taking in feedback as a writer – watch out for:

  • Defending the writing
  • Becoming angry, defensive/taking the feedback too personally
  • When you stop listening altogether
  • Shutting down to the point of stopping your writing process
  • Accepting feedback from people who do not want you to succeed

When taking in feedback as a writer, do your best to:

  • Listen, breathe – and just write it all down. You do not have to change anything right now.  Let it sink in.
  • Put your ego aside and look for opportunities to grow
  • Notice when 3 or more readers give you the same feedback – this is an area that needs work
  • Take care of yourself after a feedback session.
  • Seek feedback from people who want you to succeed!

Remember that writers learn in layers.  It is perfectly normal, for example, to have crafted a wonderful plot with an amazing main character and then learn that you still need to work on your dialogue.  Accept that this is the layer you are working on and embrace the learning process.

My experience is that right after you want to throw it all in the trash and burn it - like, the next week, if you stick with it, magic starts to bubble up to the surface.

photo resource:,

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Information – Adapted from Wikipedia



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