I started off this month with a post, "What Really Infuriates Me Is Something Worth Writing About," which discussed writing about those things that really get you riled up. In short, the subjects that push you toward the emotional edge are the ones you should really put on paper. They may not be the easiest ones to write about, and there might be a part of you that doesn't want to confront those subjects. However, reactivity means something is important to you, and to grow as a writer, you are obliged to push those limits.
- "I found this story incredibly unsettling."
- "That was absolutely sick."
- "This story came from a very dark, twisted mind."
Now that's some bold feedback, and some might consider it insulting. As a matter of fact, it would be hard to call a comparison to a dark, twisted mind anything but a slam. However, I wear these as badges of honor. These little nuggets are important to me not because they are so demeaning, but because they are so strong.
Look at the modifiers used in those comments: "incredibly," "absolutely," and "very dark." These words, while all tied to negative adjectives, are big, strong words. The commentator didn't just say, "That was sick." Nope - they put in "absolutely" to show just how sick it was. It was almost as if they were yelling at me, punishing me for what I wrote. But here's the beauty of it - they were reacting to my writing, reacting quite loudly. If a story isn't written well, the response will be equally as boring. Big, long, strong responses mean that you, as a writer, hit a nerve, and that's exactly what writing is supposed to do.
Now, in the name of full disclosure, the stories that received these comments were intended to be on the darker side of disturbed. If my intention was to be light and humorous with my story and I received those responses, well, I might want to rethink everything because I clearly missed the target. But the fact that I wrote dark and struck the perfect chords with the readers means I accomplished what I set out to do.
The takeaway here is to look for the subtext of feedback and don't get buried in the details. If someone reads your piece and gives a lot of feedback regarding the content - positive or negative - it means they felt invested enough to offer you notes. If the story failed to engage with them, the notes might just be about grammar, typing, and all the boring stuff. Emotive responses mean you got the reader going, and as a writer, that's exactly what you are supposed to do.