Digesting feedback: I’m starved


I am so pissed!

I provide typewritten, single spaced, 2 page feedback for my peers’ manuscripts (balanced between the complimentary and the critique)….and I get WHAT? I get handwritten (scribbled) paragraph summaries!

I had workshop tonight (not so bad–I got some handy feedback)…and when I got home, I settled on the couch and opened up my manuscripts to read.

VERY few comments. And short summary feedback, with the exception of 1-2 people, who did handwrite a page (which is uh, about 1/2 page if typed up). Innnnn.credible.

Now given, our workshop instructor doesn’t require everyone to do typewritten, one page feedback…but come on! This is unbelievable. It makes me feel like a chump for actually putting the time and energy into my written feedback. There was one guy who thanked me for the “best feedback on his short story last week” in his summary…yah. He wrote 8 sentences.

SOOOO frustrating. I want to call my peers Lazy Selfish Bastards.

I’m a big believer in writing karma–I’ll still do my comprehensive typewritten, single spaced, 1-2 page feedback. Call me a karmic chump.



Filed under MFA, Writing

21 responses to “Digesting feedback: I’m starved

  1. Call them “Lazy Selfish Bastards” in the next piece they have to read, and see if they pick up on who you’re referring to.

  2. I think people who have the privilege of being on an MFA course, and who have the privilege of commenting on someone else’s manuscript are obliged to provide comment in a respectful way.

    Lazy Selfish Bastards, indeed. I would add Immature and Rude to that.

  3. myaorta

    ooh, but the karma does come back to them! By putting your back into your responses, you hone your own writing skills and eye for good/bad/weak writing which osmotically informs your own work. The LSBs are largely cheating themselves. Ya know, you could post your work on another blog and welcome feedback from your writer friends in the form of an online workshop. You could only let the cool/talented people in on it.

  4. i bet they just don’t know. i provided handwritten feedback until i had a prof who required one-page typed responses, and now that’s how i always do it – although even typed, i spent a lot of time on the mss. i think you should say something to the prof, so she makes the rules clear to everyone.

  5. writinggb

    I agree with bustopher that you should carefully and tactfully, of course, approach the professor and express your concerns. Perhaps the prof hadn’t thought to require such feedback, or perhaps there is a reason why this is NOT required.

    I also agree with myaorta that YOU are benefitting not only from honing your writing skills but also from reading more carefully. This pays off.

    Good luck!

  6. fishlamp: ha!

    charlotteotter: it’s incredible, isn’t it?

    myaorta: good insight! i know that critiquing and reading other people’s work is just as important as the writing itself, but you put it beautifully.

    bustopher: but but but! at least HALF of the class is 2nd year! that means they’ve taken other profs! And i KNOW who’ve they taken–they’ve taken other workshops where I KNOW that typewritten, 1 page feedback is required! They really *are* being lazy. The first years? They don’t know any better, but STILL–ONE handwritten PARAGRAPH? Two of those 1st years saw what I wrote them last week! (2 pages single spaced typewritten)–and they have the audacity to each write me 1 handwritten paragraph!

    writinggb: yep. I think I just might take my manuscripts to her office hours and show her.

  7. heather

    This kinda crap drives insane. I stopped writing long comments for people who didn’t put forth effort for my work. I saved my energy for fellow writers who showed time and effort in their comments to me. I didn’t have time last year to spend on people who barely glanced over my work. . .

    I also would go to the prof and express my concerns (and have done so in the past).

    I think these are all signs that we are ready to be done, dear Jade… the longer I’m in my program the more apathetic and disillusioned I get. And that can’t be good for writing, can it?

  8. heather

    I also sound *totally* self-absorbed in that last comment… sorry. It seemed to me at the time a matter of self-preservation in workshop!

  9. Tea

    Argh, I feel your pain–had the same thing happen to me in grad school all the time. Amanda Davis used to require that we come in with two copies of our (typed) feedback notes–one for the author, one for her–which was great as it kept people on track (don’t know if she even read them, but the fear factor was there). Of course, the one time I was workshopped last in the semester she decided not to collect the pages and the quality went way down–one student didn’t even turn in feedback! People are flakes when they can be. Pisses me off.

  10. I think it’s totally the responsibility of the prof to make the expectations clear. People tend to get away with the minimal amount of work possible, unless it is spelled out to them. (sigh) I would definitely go and talk to her. On the other hand, I found that 90% of the feedback I got in my MFA program was incoherent nonsense anyway, so maybe it’s not even worth it. What you really want is the insight from the professor.

    And I’d start scribbling half-paragraphs for the remainder of the workshop as well.

  11. This used to happen to me all the time in workshop. I was very diligent about typing up 1-2 page responses, and I got half-assed scribbled graphs on my own work in return. The further along I got in MFA program, the more this seemed to happen. …in other words, the more experienced people were more likely to do this.

    I definitely agree that a chat with your prof is in order. But, at the same time…I have to say that I gave up on written feedback and took copious notes on what was said in class. Many people who didn’t take the time to write did take the time to provide thoughtful comments in class, which I suppose somewhat makes up for their laziness. And people who did write good feedback often said things in class that weren’t in their written comments.

    Interestingly, I saved every written scrap of feedback from my program, but I haven’t looked at any of it. What I do refer to when revisiting pieces of writing are my own notes from the classes in which I was workshopped. It’s basically a compilation of everyone’s thoughts, so no need to compare 12 different letters later on.

  12. Lazy selfish bastards, indeed.

    Unfortunately, that’s been much much of my experience with writing workshops. Although I’ve enjoyed the courses–partly because I enjoyed the interaction with other writers and partly because it helped provide motivation for me to write–the good feedback that I’ve gotten in workshops has been scarce. The sucky feedback, however, has been plentiful.

    I will agree with Myaorta, of course, that you benefit from writing careful and thorough reviews. But still, wouldn’t it be better to get the benefit of writing great reviews AND get the benefit of receiving them?


  13. Most of the advice you will get in any writing workshop will be bad, irrelevent advice that will misunderstand your intentions and ruin your work if followed. Do you really want MORE of this? Consider yourself lucky with minimal feedback. Go with your own gut, or type up a critique for yourself like you type for others.

  14. Eve

    Evidently most of the people in your workshop don’t believe in karma.

    I loved what heather wrote (so much so, that I’m going to repeat it), “I saved my energy for fellow writers who showed time and effort in their comments to me. I didn’t have time last year to spend on people who barely glanced over my work. . .”

    This seems the most satisfying and common-sense approach, as you aren’t killing yourself for blood-sucking vampires, and you also aren’t withholding your best from people who will really benefit from it because they are already giving their best.

  15. The typical human being is pretty darned lazy and self centered. They’ll complete a task with the most minimal of efforts if they can get away with it.

  16. I am still VERY pissed. Well not “very pissed” but “pissed.” This experience is so ridiculous. I had a wonderful mentor who said to me “If you put the work in and you help others with their writing, you will be blessed.” I have always worked really hard in workshop (and it’s even harder for me now)…but hearing those words made me realize the value of giving good feedback.

    So I chant them over and over through gritted teeth this week.

    Heather: no you were not self absorbed–you were empathizing and it’s good to know I’m not the only one out there in her last drawn out semester wondering what’s wrong with her peers. (I don’t hate my program, but sometimes I question the other writers).

    Tea: You had Amanda Davis! So cool. Yes, most of my profs require 2 copies of feedback (one for the writer, one for them)–actually ALL of them have required this. And so people put out a good amount of effort. But not this one…I typed out ALL the feedback in sum (including the instructor’s) of ALL 12 pieces of feedback, because I couldn’t look at all the handwriting and parse it and I wanted it all in one spot and guess what: It totaled to 3 single spaced typed pages. Um. It SHOULD have totalled to about oh, 12 times that.

    Susan: I think I will go to the prof–yes I know some of the feedback isn’t helpful but shit…this is downright disrespectful! They put ZERO effort into it! ZERO. That makes me feel like Super Crap.

    Elizabeth: Yep, I did take diligent notes. I have trouble with my verbal short term memory, still, so in order for me to remember what people say (especially in a large group situation like workshop), I have to write EVERYTHING DOWN. So I was scribbling away. They said some decent stuff. But then again! WE ONLY GET 30 MINUTES FOR EACH MANUSCRIPT. So you would THINK that written feedback would be VERY important because think about it–12 people, 30 minutes. That’s not a lot of verbal feedback.

    Troy: exactly!

    the individual voice: you are so right. i don’t want more of their crap if they are the kind of people who just haphazardly scribble 5 sentences at the end of a 25 page manuscript and then stay silent for most of class. BUT–I can’t help but think if they put more effort into reading my piece I could get SOMETHING. Or at least, feel like there was an equivalent amount of work going around.

    Eve: Yep. I went 2nd, so I didn’t know who was generous and who was not. I hope that people who saw that I read the work seriously will write something very comprehensive for me. But of course, not the case–because the people who went last week were the worst culprits in the feedback. I still don’t know who to be generous for.

    Kimchihead: Lesson learned. Yup.

  17. I don’t know… I found the real point of critting was never so much to get useful feedback, as to get sensitized to looking at fiction another way, by looking at others’ stuff a lot. (And not just your own.) So I find that putting the effort in will have a much higher payoff than getting the benefits of their crits.

    Though, yeah, I also tended to spend less time writing for people who crapped out on my crits.

    Another thing is that people might not feel the strong motivation to do a good crit if they aren’t, I don’t know how to say this, but… well, not well-bonded to one another? My experience was that a lot of crits in grad school were about people showing the teacher what astute readers they are, and pointing out weaknesses in others’ writing — telling you what you done wrong — so as to feel stronger themselves.

    My crit group now formed under high pressure at a very intense workshop — 3-4 crits a day, 3-4 stories a day to read, one story a week to write. Not everyone was everyone else’s best friend, of course, but in general a lot of deep bonds developed, and altruism resulted — enough altruism so that we fairly consistently worked hard to figure out what the person did well, and not-so-well, and worked hard to tell them both in a way that could help them improve.

    Maybe you should arrange some kind of drinking night or something with the crit group? (I don’t know if you can drink, now, post-stroke, actually, but it matters more whether the group is bonding socially. Maybe that would help.

    Oh, how [culturally] Korean of me, to suggest that.

  18. BTW the picture amused the hell out of me.

  19. Gord: TOTALLY agree with you–workshop is not only about when your own piece is being critiqued, but about learning off the critiques of other pieces, and learning to have a CLOSE eye on a work in progress. And so much more that I can’t articulate right now.

    Which is why, when I went to my professor’s office hours, she was just so shocked to see how people had totally flaked out on this courtesy (courtesy to the writer, and to themselves). Critiquing/Reading is JUST AS IMPORTANT as writing.

    Anyway. I would want to have a drink with these folks (I told my instructor, and she totally understood, that I’m filled with a sort of HATRED for my peers)–and being social just overwhelms me. But–I did bring food to a few workshops, so that people could feel…I dunno, a little more bonded as you say, and possibly even somewhat generous towards me.

    But nope.

    And thanks for the picture compliment. I’m glad you “got it.” 🙂

  20. Lamberakis

    Yes, the feedback I’ve been getting recently in my workshop truly has BLOWN balls. It makes me angry at first, but then I just feel discouraged and alienated.

    By the way, is that a bear’s butt in your kitchen?????

  21. Lamberakis: did you talk to your prof/workshop instructor? I did mine and it made me feel better. I told her what I expected out of workshop and why I’m disappointed, and then in a jocular tone of voice said, “I’m filled with a bit of hatred for those who did this!” If your workshop instructor is also a writer (and inevitably he/she is)…then he/she will understand.

    I have little hope for how this will turn out, because my workshop instructor is very loose handed and a bit open ended with the class, and we’ll jsut see.

    btw: that’s just my dog’s butt.

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