By Deborah Wright Yoho
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is a luxury to be understood." Perhaps this is the reason a writer is a creature who craves feedback. We want to know we have communicated what we meant, that our words are received with all the nuance and meaning we ascribe to our efforts in our own minds.
We all want to be understood. Emerson noted the rarity of that privilege. The writer strives for the Holy Grail, an elusive instant that is precious. How can we know the reader 'hears' what we 'said'?
We have to ask. The SC Writers’ Workshops provide structured opportunities for readers to share what they 'heard'. As writers, we hope this is a reflection of our own voice, and if we are fortunate indeed, perhaps the reader's mind is challenged to follow our mental pathway toward something new.
I find that I get the most out of constructive, sincere feedback only after I reach a level of personal satisfaction with what I have written. So I don't share my work with anyone until I sense a fair chance that it is good enough for someone to 'hear' what I am trying to say. Like Emerson, I know the luxury of being understood. Perhaps I need to develop a thicker skin; it strikes me that writing is a risky business.
So if I don't really value what I have written--if it hasn't cooked long enough, or doesn't have enough ingredients yet, hasn't marinated to a richness at least in my own mind, I don't bring it to the workshop. I feel I can't expect a reader to value my writing (enough to give my words serious consideration and help me improve) if the selection isn't already close to the best I can do without the reader's feedback. If I want to grow tomorrow beyond whatever level I have reached today, I have to do my best first, and only then seek out the "luxury of being understood."