No writer’s an island

Growing up, I hated getting feedback on my writing (whether it was something I’d written for school or the latest story I was making up).  I’d got it into my head that I had to do absolutely everything myself and that getting help was ‘cheating’. I was convinced you could either write well or you couldn’t. If someone helped me, it meant I wasn’t a good writer.

My child-self was stupid.

Nowadays, I couldn’t imagine sending my words into the world before checking them with a writer I trust.* In fact, I’ve had help from so many people over the years, listing them all could fill a blog by itself. And my writing’s so much better for it.

Whatever you’re working on, I think we all need feedback.

The right second opinion helps you spot tiny mistakes and typos that are easy to miss when you know your content too well.

The right second opinion challenges you if your words go off on tangents, or your logic doesn’t stack up.

The right second opinion gives you a fresh perspective. It almost always makes your writing stronger.

And yet, I completely see why people might shy away from getting writing help. If you’re in a senior position, an expert in your field, or perhaps you already work in comms, you might feel like you ‘should’ be able to write well already. You probably do write well. But could a bit of constructive feedback fine-tune your message?

Even if you see yourself as a scribe, crafting different things can call for different skills. Outside Schwa, I (attempt) to write children’s books one day a week. I still remember walking into my first group critiquing session on Lou Kuenzler’s brilliant City Lit course. I took my seat with my head held high. I was a professional writer. Sharing a chapter from my book for seven-year-olds would be a doddle.

Then I sat through a brutal twenty minutes, as a room full of children’s writers politely and constructively tore my chapter to shreds. It was painful at the time (no matter how useful feedback is, it often feels personal). The day after, when the sting had eased, I started writing again. After one round of feedback my story was already taking better shape. After a year, the difference between my first draft and my final(ish) one was night and day.

The more I write, the more I’m convinced that no writer’s an island. We all need to get our point of view challenged from time to time. And whether you’re writing a book, a report or an all-company email, checking your words with someone whose writing you respect can only be a good thing.

If you’re ready to get feedback on your business writing, we can help

Read Neil’s book. It’s packed with practical tips for business writers and includes a section on dealing with feedback.

Book a coaching session or critique with us. We’ll give you honest feedback on whatever you’re writing, along with tips and techniques to make your next draft the best it can be.

Or get us in to train your whole team. Our full and half-day workshops cover planning, writing, reviewing and giving feedback. And you’ll have a chance to rework a piece of your writing in the room.

If you’re looking for inspiration or creative writing feedback, here are some of my favourite books and courses

City Lit runs lots of ‘how to’ courses for writers as well as critiquing workshops. At Schwa, we also team up with children’s author, Lou Kuenzler to run our own masterclasses on getting your words and pictures in sync.

MasterClass online courses are taught by famous authors, actors, comedians and filmmakers. They give great insights into how the ‘pros’ honed their craft. And there’s a forum to share work with fellow students.

Curtis Brown Creative has a selection of courses to help you write and polish your novel. I took their online Edit and Pitch Your Novel course before Christmas. It completely changed the way I looked at structuring and reviewing my book. It came with some insightful reader feedback, too.

Finally, as a reminder that we should all seek criticism rather than praise, Paul Arden’s classic book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. encourages you to set your sights high, whatever you’re working on. It’s been inspiring me since I was a student.

*Thanks to Neil for feeding back on this blog.

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