(photo of work by Mario Pfeifer – artist – exhibition at Power Plant, Toronto)

I am happy to report I have survived peer reviews.

Barely.

Although we were given some guidelines about how to give feedback by our writing instructors, a fellow student did not exactly follow those guidelines. Her feedback on my first submission was longer than the piece I wrote.

It was BRUTAL.

It also was completely accurate.

I expected no less as this particular person spent significant time on the discussion board, always speaking with something bordering on uncomfortable superiority. She also spoke from a place of authority having spent her career as a teacher, specializing in reading.

I hate when that happens. You can’t really hate on somebody who knows what they’re talking about.

More than anyone in either of my courses (excluding the instructors), this particular classmate’s suggestions were the most helpful. You might think I should be a little more grateful. I am. Really.

It was her delivery. A little condescending (maybe a lot condescending) and dismissive.

If the feedback was printed, the watermark on the paper’s background would definitely have said DUH.

But, again, totally accurate and incredibly helpful.

I was reminded of a couple incidents in university (which I blogged about in 2017) when two professors I really respect gave me strong feedback. One was done with a very blunt delivery, and the other with more of a guiding hand.

Both were bang on accurate. My reaction to each was diametrically opposed.

As I begin the next steps of this writing adventure – the submission of the two pieces deemed by my instructors to be “publishable” – I feel better prepared.

But I’m going to be honest: I’m not fully prepared. All the words I put on the page are my ‘little darlings’. They mean something to me. They mean a lot of something to me.

I’m not sure you can ever be prepared the multitude of ways rejection is delivered. That is the unknown.

I know I’ll get rejected. Probably more often than not the rejection will come in the form of radio silence. I’ll enter a contest and hear nothing until the formal announcement of the winners is published and my name is not on it (been there, done that). But when I do receive feedback, it will be the delivery that I will need to prepare for, not the ‘no’. Because the ‘no’ is part of the process.

Feedback – it’s a catch-22. My writing is better because of feedback – incredible growth has occurred this term. Multiple eyes and minds mulled over my work and it came out at the end sharper and more fulsome – better. Much, much better.

And yet, interestingly enough, the piece that classmate shred to pieces – it never had the chance to pass the bar for ‘publishable’ – I lost my footing and I never found it again. That piece is sitting in a file, waiting to be loved once again.

By the end of the class, my ability to hear feedback also strengthened. But I know, I have a long way to go before I can take it all in without flinching.

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