Friday, December 21, 2018

Unsolicited Feedback

I wrote a poem this month using Jay Long's December writing prompts.  It is simply entitled Red. All through high school and college I wore bright red lipstick.  From the moment I left my home until the moment I returned, a fresh layer of red adorned my lips. When Jay's writing prompt came along, how could I not write about my favorite color lip tint?

I wrote the poem and then submitted it to a couple places. It was accepted right away. I then had something happen that normally does not.  I received unsolicited feedback from an editor and a fellow writer.  It wasn't aware that it was an open forum and I never asked for any feedback, so I found it peculiar. 

Without sharing the poem as it hasn't been published yet, I thought I would share the feedback.

Bit of a punch (or pucker) line at the end, I'd say. That aside, I think you could go somewhere with this. I'd try writing it in a serious vein, without the repetition of "lips so red."

What? Go somewhere? What I wrote was a completed poem. And serious vein?  The humor was intended!  And don't repeat the catch line, lips so red? Am I crazy, I thought that was it the best part of the poem? This is from an editor who I believe has some affiliation with the site looking for writers and pieces to publish. To be honest, I haven't a clue who he is and have never heard of him before.

Then today, I received an email that said the following from a writer I have never spoken to and haven't read anything she has written.

Yes, the repetition screams for this to be a lyric more than a poem, in this case.
But, there is something here, the anticipation, the almost but not quite sustained feeling.

I was so confused.  The editor who accepted it for print said the following:  Loved the catch phrase- Lips so red.  This is a perfect short piece that tells a complete story.  Love the humorous last line.

(Keep in mind, I am fully aware that nothing either the editor nor the fellow writer said was necessarily wrong or even offensive.  The fact is, it was unsolicited and almost the complete opposite of what the publishing editor told me.) 

So what have I learned with this oddball occurrence? 

As a writer, there will always be unsolicited feedback.  Some, outstanding and absolutely useful.  Most, should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Everyone has an opinion.  And that is what it is. Their opinion. It doesn't make it true or right. It is just what one person believes. 

What one person loves, another person hates.  And that is okay.  Not everyone is going to like everything that I write. 

Know my audience. Not everything I write will be everyone's cup of tea.  Some things, possibly such as this poem, shouldn't be made available on open forums until published. 

I don't have to make any changes whatsoever, especially when what I have written is personal and means something to me.  I wrote this memory poem about my husband. And he wouldn't change a thing. 

When the harsh yet totally constructive criticism comes my way, I need to put on my tough outer skin and take it. I need to hear it, digest it, and apply it.  And hopefully when it is really great criticism, it will change the way I approach the writing process going forward. 

The most important lesson I have learned is this:  I need to investigate submissions more thoroughly.  Submissions should just go to an editor and not be made available to a whole darn lot of people with a whole darn lot of time on their hands. I am speaking of the people that are independently wealthy, or comfortably unemployed living in mom's basement who have a decent WiFi connection and feel that their input is needed to make the world function as a whole. That their input is what will change the world.  Because the truth is, there are trolls everywhere. Under every news post in the comments, under every article posted online. Someone with an opinion who loves to be a naysayer will always post something to the contrary. There will always be someone who has majored in Drama Creation and has nothing better to do than continually check back in the comments section and make sure that the pot has been completely stirred. 

Whew.  That was a lot to get out of my system.  Remember, real life doesn't work like this.  If someone wears an outfit that we don't like, most decent human beings don't say a word. We bite our tongue and carry on with the day. Because, brace yourself, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of life. One bad outfit, who cares. If you are truly friends with someone, you will still love them the next day and a poor outfit choice will be a distant memory. 

Also, most adults at this point in life have developed an ability to maintain an inner dialogue that no one else is aware of.  You observe something, you think something, you don't say a word. And you don't go back to add your two cents for the next three days so that everyone within ear shot is fully aware of what you "think and feel". 

With all of this being said, I now know I will never submit to that editor again as it seems everyone and their cousin Billy would have access to my submissions. Maybe I have yet to develop that tough skin I mentioned. But then, if I am a little bit more selective, continuing to wear my heart my sleeve might be the perfect placement for me.  

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