THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDBACK.
I want to celebrate.
As a child, when I received full-marks for a spelling test, Dad rewarded me with a Kitchener Bun from the fish ‘n chip shop/bakery which in the good ol’ days of my childhood was situated opposite Glenelg Primary School. Well, I think I deserved a Kitchener Bun after this last week.
The other day, I had time to check my Amazon account. I wiped off the virtual cobwebs of neglect, and digging deep in the files of my mind, retrieved the password to enter. I expected nothing much to have changed.
I’ve been busy with my blog checking the statistics, small, though they are, compared to the rest of blogging world. The steady trickle of views, likes and comments, satisfies me.
I’d done a daring move last week, and posted my short story, Boris’ Choice—not for the faint-hearted or while one eats breakfast…Were there any results on Amazon with my Boris-related books?
And…there were. Yes!
Then, I checked the reviews. Now, I don’t know how other writers have fared with reviews, but for many months since my books were published, I had received no reviews. Yes, I asked my readers to do the deed and tick the star-boxes and comment, with no results. Yes, they’d say, and the weeks went by and nothing. Were they just being polite? I have no illusions and the reality is that art and literature are subjective—what one person likes another won’t. I have heard, however, that Amazon do not treat comments and reviews from friends as genuine, and therefore do not publish them. The reality is, it’s mostly friends who have bought my books.
Anyway, back to checking the reviews…I looked again at one of the countries where one of my books was sold. The page appeared different. A yellow bar, and a comment. Genuine feedback. Not a great appraisal, but an appraisal all the same. I knew the person who wrote this first-ever comment for my book, but was not surprised at their response. I did wonder at the time how my novella would work for them—not well—just as I imagined when they informed me they’d bought the book on Kindle. As I said before, Boris and his antics are, well…not for everyone.
That being said, and for fear my works may be misunderstood, the over-riding theme of my stories are the classic fight of good against evil. How evil, like Boris, can creep into our lives. And when for whatever reason, usually when we maintain and enhance ourselves, also to avoid discomfort, we allow evil to stay. This evil, however subtle, will drive us to isolated places in our lives, much like Boris does his victims in The Hitch-hiker; places we never wanted to go. I want young adults and people young at heart, to make choices and use their energy for goodness and to fight evil, so they can live a full life and also be an agent for good in their community and the world.
And here’s where feedback fits in. We need to communicate to help others and ourselves grow, and for evil, often in the guise of deception, to shrink. Again, I hold up The Hitch-hiker story as an example where no one spoke up and ejected Boris before it was almost too late.
Another example is the power of illusion and how it traps a person in deception. We’ve all had the experience where someone is under the illusion they’re great at whatever, say singing. They get up at a karaoke night and sing, and the truth of the matter is, they are not…good. But no one in the room is game to tell them for fear of hurting their feelings.
It’d be fair to say we are afraid of being judged; the truth of ourselves revealed. Like the singer mentioned previously, we fear that our illusion of our identity will be smashed.
I recall my university days, my first year, Japanese Literature. The lecturer, Mr. M from New York and more direct than us tender-hearted Aussies from Adelaide, handed back our assignments.
‘Lee-Anne,’ Mr. M announced, ‘this was a disaster.’
I gritted my teeth and took the paper, red scrawled over every paragraph. One “Fail” in my eyes notched up.
The same day, in English Literature, the tutor, plumb-in-her-mouth Mrs. C, doled out our efforts. ‘Lee-Anne,’ she said in her upper-class way, ‘I was not happy with your essay, it was all muddled. I would like you to get some coaching with Miss. W.’
I took the paper. Another “Fail” in my eyes. Great, I thought, top of the class (second-to-top, actually) at high school, and at university I’m a “pleb”. What’s going on?
Then Drama, ‘twas the day for the return of assignments, not my day though. What a drama! The Drama assignment “bombed” too. In the Drama Studies tea room, I fell in a heap, and cried. Then I used the pay-phone to call my mother to collect me.
Yet, despite this trauma of feedback and a landslide of failures, I confronted the truth: Too much socialising and not enough earnest study does not make good grades. My tutors were just doing their job to help me be a better student and make the most of my learning experience. I had to, and did, put more effort into my study to complete my degree.
On the flip-side, as a mother, leader, friend, writer and artist, I struggle to give feedback. There’s the fear of hurt feelings, or retaliation and even some truth spat back about myself from the recipient of my feedback. So much easier to just click “like”, than give a comment with good or constructive criticism. What if I’m misunderstood? So much easier to allow a serious problem with an article or a person to slide than address the issues, reveal the truth. So much easier to avoid judgment than face it—or to give a judgement.
But to help people grow, because they are worth it, we need to be able to communicate with the person’s best interests at heart, what they are doing well and where they can improve. As artisans, to improve our craft of writing, art or music, we need feedback. How can we be the best we can possibly be, or masters of our chosen craft, having it at the highest quality, unless we have honest helpful feedback (without an agenda attached)?
Goodness is this: looking out for the interests of others—building each other up and helping each other grow. If we hold our time, effort and success to ourselves at the expense of others, as my character, Boris does, we suck the life out of others. When we concentrate on our own comfort and avoid pain, by abdicating our responsibility to give or receive feedback, or when we misuse feedback, such as judging and criticising others for our own benefit, our world shrinks. When we’re not authentic with each other in a healthy and loving way, we end up alone and lost in the world of illusion.
Communication, being real with each other, feeling safe to be ourselves, that is what goodness, what community is all about. As the good book, the Bible says: Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
So again, thank you for the feedback.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Klontalersee, Switzerland (c) Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2014