Feedback and Christmas Gifts

Dec 3, 2019 | Better Writing

I remember the Christmas I got the radar set. It was what I wanted most. I had besieged Santa with prayers. Just to be safe, I besieged my parents with the same prayers. Now, I opened the box to find the radar set.

This was not just any radar set. It had a decal that said it was “The official radar set of the Ground Observer Corps.”

I wanted that radar set even more than I wanted a Hopalong Cassidy outfit. So, when I got it, I was beyond gleeful. There was another box nearby. I was sure it would be the soldier’s helmet that I could wear when I worked my plastic radar set.

I reached for the box and opened it. It wasn’t the helmet! Oh, my stars, it was a winter cap with ear flaps that tied under the chin. None of the other kids in the 2nd grade had hats with ear flaps that tied under the chin.

Actually, that wasn’t true, but I did think so at the time.

I saved the present from my aunt for last. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, only that I knew what would be in the box from her. I was right. Socks. Every year, I got socks from my aunt.

My mother pointed out a box that I had missed. The tag said it was from Mr. Wagner. Mr. Wagner was a friend of the family, and he always gave my sister and me Christmas gifts. It was a little daily devotional designed for kids in the 2nd grade.

When You Get Feedback on Your Writing, It’s Like Christmas All Over Again

When you get feedback on your writing, it’s like Christmas morning. You hope for something like the radar set. Exactly what you want.

What you want is undiluted praise. “What a great book!” “Amazing!” The problem with that kind of feedback is it’s rare, and while it feels good, it may not help much.

Some of the feedback will be like the hat with the ear flaps. It isn’t what you want, by any means. But it is something you need. Some feedback is uncomfortable but tells you things you need to hear.

Some feedback is not particularly dramatic, but helpful, like my aunt’s socks.

And some feedback is like Mr. Wagner’s devotional book. Mr. Wagner wasn’t giving me and my sister devotional books because he thought we needed them. He was giving them to show my parents what a devout and thoughtful person he was. In the world of feedback, some people will give you feedback designed to show off how smart or savvy they are.

Remember this. All feedback is a gift. Some is helpful.

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