2 min read

Feedback is a gift to your writing

A white ceramic mug with a cream ring at the bottom with the words "See the Good"
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

When you are writing, it can feel like a solo sport. You get heads down in writing the document you think you need. You barely come up for air. Then when you hit that final full stop you feel an immense sense of relief. You’re done. Your document is finished…well, not quite.

If you write like this, you are missing out on others' feedback. If you write totally in isolation you risk focusing on the wrong thing, or skipping over important context or background information.

In my early days of writing papers, I was scared to share. I had this fear that people would think my writing sucked, or worse still they would try and take credit for my ideas. Writing this may sound silly, but at the time it was real. My logical brain is now able to think, if my writing was terrible, surely I should find that out before I share with key decision makers!? I also wish I could go back and tell my younger self that no one was going to steal my ideas!!

Feedback is a gift.

Sharing your document early and often helps you refine the story. It helps you see the parts you are blind to. Those early readers will be reading your document with a fresh pair of eyes. They will see where you have skipped over things, or gone way too far into the weedy detail. They can help you shape the story you need to tell.

I was given an amazing piece of advice - share when you are most embarrassed by your document. This may sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out. If you are embarrassed then it is unlikely you will be attached to what you have written. You will be more open to feedback and suggestions to improve. The more time you spend writing, the more attached you will be to it, and in all likelihood, you will be closed off to suggestions.

Now when I write I share early and often. I tell people that this is a draft, that all feedback is welcome. This has a couple of benefits. The first, reviewers will share open and honest feedback, and secondly, they will often take ownership of the document too. I tend to have a pool of reviewers, some close to the topic, and others that aren’t. (I find people who know little about your subject provide really good feedback!) Then when my paper is nearing completion, I enlist the help of a friend who has a hawk-eye for spelling mistakes, just to do a final sweep.

Regardless of how you go about gathering feedback, allow plenty of time, but make sure it is timeboxed. Don't delay sharing with your decision makers for too long. You want the document to be good, but there is little need for it to be perfect. Afterall it should be the starting point for your product, programme, or project. The document is rarely the final deliverable.

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