No, don’t worry, I am not going to go all day-job on you and subject you to one of my training courses. But, while I was doing a lot of training and no writing last week, one thing struck me quite forcibly.
How many times I explained an exercise or a concept with what seemed to me limpid clarity… only to have the participants ask questions which made it equally clear that my message had been misunderstood. At least in a training room, you usually get immediate feedback and can rephrase, reformulate, explain. Even mime your message, if all else fails.
What can you do in writing, however? It got me thinking about all the times I had written a story or a poem, and it became obvious from people’s reactions to it that I had not managed to convey what was in my head and heart. Luckily, when you post a poem online, you get a few valuable comments from readers, which show you what has been understood, how things are perceived, what bits are most impactful. The Like button is sweet stroking for the ego, but not quite as helpful in this regard (and yes, I admit, I use it myself when I am pressed for time, but want to show that I have read the poem or story).
Perhaps that doesn’t matter in a poem, which is the original onion amongst the writing genres anyway.
Most of the time, however, in traditional publishing, you do not get an immediate reaction. You hear from an agent or an editor or a critic – from the professionals, very seldom from the readers who are neither friends nor family. Does this have an impact on your writing? Should it have an impact? Should you test out your ‘new material’ in a writing group, for instance? Or should you just ignore what people say and go ahead and write regardless?
I am not quite sure I have cracked the answer to this one for myself. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. What I do know is that famous George Bernard Shaw quote: ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
And, in case you are wondering what my message is in all of this, it’s that I love, love, love your comments and that I welcome your criticism, because it helps me to improve my writing.