why bloggers need your feedback

Written by Shelly Miller

Editor, Living the Story Shelly Miller is smitten with the art of story to transform a life. She writes about her own struggles as a child of divorce and alcoholism, and the way God redeems it all as a clergy wife raising two teens. With experience as a full-time missionary, advocate for orphans in Rwanda and leader of women’s ministries for small and large congregations, she is passionate to help people realize calling despite circumstance. When her husband H isn’t leading a church planting movement in North America, they drive five minutes across the street to take a walk on the Atlantic, with a camera strapped to her shoulder.

August 5, 2013

rb31dayslaity

I decided to start blogging after sitting through a frustrating board meeting.

After hours of listening to the founding member of a new ministry share ideas that seemed incomprehensibly irrelevant, it ignited a fire inside me. I realized that if a leader doesn’t care to understand social networking, read books on the topic they speak about or research the market on the subject for which they are writing a book, frankly, they aren’t someone I want to follow.

I resigned from the board.

Instead of trying to convince someone to be culturally relevant, I took my own advice, then I stuck my toes in the uncharted waters of blogging. Unexpectedly, that board meeting helped me to discern how to harness God given gifts and spurred me into a wonderful community through the internet, complimenting my job as a feature writer.

I deeply regret that I wasn’t brave enough to give honest feedback. None of us were. As Christians, we sometimes associate honesty with being unkind or mean spirited. But when feedback  is constructive and delivered in an attitude of love, it is a generous gift.

My board room experience fuels the fear I revisit from time to time; the fear that well-meaning cohorts aren’t brave enough to give me honest feedback about my writing. Feedback isn’t so much about me as it is about you. It helps me understand what resonates and how God is speaking to you.

Feedback isn’t about criticism or judgment, accolades or feel goods as much as a helpful tool in discernment, because writers don’t write for everyone, just those He brings to the welcome mat of our stories.

If the comments on a blog post are silent, I fear I’ve misheard God’s voice, more than I fear the quality of my writing tanked. I fear I’ve boxed myself in to the small room of my own life, become irrelevant and provincial in my thinking.

Recently, I submitted a story for publication. After three rounds of edits, my voice was completely missing from the content. The piece transformed into a skeleton of facts about my life void of passion. Ultimately, I owned my voice with mutual consent that the story wasn’t working.  Ironically, that encounter is one of the highlights of my writing career because of what it taught me.

It’s just as important to know who you are when you write as it is to know the message you’re called to share. If you aren’t engaging with the world outside your picket fence, you might find your message is musty, already spent, yesterday’s news.

When its God voice for His people today, even what seems old can become a brand new message. We just need your feedback to know how the wind blows the Spirit so we can move our sacred pen, and hopefully your heart along with it.

Do you struggle with giving honest feedback? Or receiving it?

 

46 Comments

  1. Laura Boggess

    I love your voice and couldn’t imagine editing it out. How’s that for feedback?

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      You are one of my greatest encouragers Laura and I value your feedback as an editor, a prolific writer and a friend. Thank you!

      Reply
  2. kelli woodford

    “It’s just as important to know who you are when you write as it is to know the message you’re called to share.”

    this. yes.
    somehow we can begin to think that the discovery of self is a less-than-spiritual pursuit, don’t you think? but maybe it’s when we get down into the nitty grit of who we really are that we are the most transparent channels between God and the world around us.

    love what you said about feedback, too, Shel. it is pretty rare to find someone with enough maturity to speak the truth in love … but with all my heart i want to be one like that.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I so agree with you Kelli, about what you say regarding knowing who we are opening the most transparent channels between us and God. I like the way you say that. I’m finding that to be true in my life. The more I learn about myself, the deeper the intimacy with God. They go hand in hand for me.

      And I agree, it takes a bit of maturity to give feedback well. I’m learning from those mentoring me how to do it well and offer the opportunity for forgiveness when I don’t.

      Reply
      • kelli woodford

        you know, this message is so timely for us. just this afternoon the matter of honest, loving confrontation came up again in a friendship. because of your lucidity here, i felt better able to articulate what i think about it and why.

        *thank you* much, friend. your words make a difference.

        Reply
        • Shelly Miller

          Oh wow Kelli, that really blesses me to know that. Thanks for telling me friend.

          Reply
  3. Patricia

    “It’s just as important to know who you are when you write as it is to know the message you’re called to share. ”
    I could so relate to this! I’ve wanted to write for years but have only started doing so very, very recently, and your comment really speaks to why. Aside from the typical fears and hurdles people face, I really had to work on finding out who I am. Now that i’ve made some progress with that, putting myself “out there” feels more natural, and my voice feels more confident.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Patricia, I love hearing this from you because I’m sure your well is deep and will be a cold drink to thirsty souls. For me, writing has actually been the thing that has helped me identify my voice . . . and I’m still learning. And I hope I never stop.

      Reply
  4. ThandiweW

    Wow. I struggle, wondering why Christians are afraid to be honest. It probably gets me in trouble occasionally, but you nailed it when you wrote,”…when feedback is constructive and delivered in an attitude of love, it is a generous gift.” It is a generous gift, and you are gracious and wise to know so and say so.
    Thanks for this.
    Peace and good,
    Chelle

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I think love is the key word in the life of a Christian. If it isn’t done in love, then don’t do it.

      Reply
      • ThandiweW

        Shelly, would that everybody thought so…
        Chelle

        Reply
  5. Diane Bailey

    Rare is the person who will actually make a living with writing, and for me, feedback, and comments are a paycheck. It encourages me. I write because I feel like I have something relevant to say. I write because I think I can encourage other women as someone who is just a little further ahead of them on this walk of life. And feedback, and comments helps me to know if I am hitting the mark.

    I love your voice, Shelly. I love they way you look at life and share it with your readers. This is a wonderful blog post! You have hit the mark!

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      I love how you said this, Diane. Yes, the comments are a paycheck. They encourage me so much. Thank you for putting words to how I feel but couldn’t seem to express!

      And I too love your voice, Shelly. I am so thankful for the ways you help open my eyes and heart to see things from a perspective I sometimes miss. Bless you, my friend. So grateful.

      Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I agree with Kris, you said this so eloquently Diane. Love how you said it.

      Reply
    • cheryl

      Diane, I think you have hit on an important point with your observation, “rare is the person who will actually make a living with writing…” that should be highlighted. As Christians, I think we tend to fall into the trap of “serving God” looks like having some type of platform such as a writer, speaker, Pastor or having a calling that falls under the 5 fold ministry. But really, how many people are really called to be Pastors, or writers or teachers? There is a shift coming in the body where it will be okay to be part of the body and to function in your talent and your sphere. The next revival is going to be different in that God will be using people from every walk of like, where they work and in their own sphere. I think we are entering an era of surprises.

      Reply
  6. Karmen M

    “writers don’t write for everyone, just those He brings to the welcome mat of our stories.”

    Thank you for this reminder. I don’t write for the masses, I write for the ones who need my story as much as I need to share it.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I think it’s easy to feel defeated when we look at others who draw large crowds with their voice and message and compare ourselves. He left all those sheep to find one that was lost. I’m glad this encouraged you.

      Reply
  7. Joy Lenton

    This the goal, “so that we can move our sacred pen, and hopefully your heart along with it”. Oh, yes. Feedback is essential in discerning how well or otherwise such a noble objective is being met. Especially “because writers don’t write for everyone, just those He brings to the welcome mat of our stories”. What a lovely description and always worth remembering. You speak wisdom here, Shelly. Being aware of who we are and Whose we are will go a long way toward making sure our message is relevant for those God chooses to hear it. And we hear you loud and clear. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Always appreciate your encouragement Joy, thank you for stopping by.

      Reply
  8. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, this is such an excellent post, and I love that YOU love feedback, and also that you respond to it. I think that relationship is one of the most important things that you have personally engendered through your blog. I think that commentors can feel as if they are commenting in a vaccuum when the blogger never interacts. Wow! An hours’-long board meeting (with basically one speaker)! Oh my. If a board meeting can’t conclude in an hour, it is surely unfocused (and likely a waste of time). I love how you were spurred into a new direction with your writing as a result, so I take it back: God is sovereign, and the meeting wasn’t a waste of time after all. God used it positively in your life. All writers need feedback, and if it is given constructively and lovingly, you are so right: It can really be a gift…..to help us grow, correct mistakes, help direct our writing to meet needs, etc. Editorial comments (from an editor to an author in a professional relationship) can sometimes sting. But again, it depends upon whether they are on target and how they are delivered. I am so grateful to editors who have corrected my mistakes, but with kindness and caring. I also remember one editor early on in my career, who was downright mean-spirited. And after my pain dissipated, I realized she must have had an ax to grind. She wasn’t correcting errors (which she never actually mentioned), but she was criticizing my life experience. So I let go her naysaying, but I did learn from it: I learned how I do NOT want to edit others’ work. And when an editor strips out your voice, it really is time to reassess. This is a very particular gift that God bestows to each writer. You’re right to own your voice, because God has given it to you, and not to employ it (I believer) is to deny Him. When your voice is gone, your writing is like an empty, hanging chrysalis shell. The beauty has flown on. Your writing is beauiful and it continually resounds in lyrical tones with which God has blessed you. And the message, too, must come from Him. (I can tell how much you pray over your messages for His direction). I think it is really important to listen to your readership (and you do). It’s also important to write the message that God has given you to share. Sometimes that takes great courage, and your voice may be a lone one crying in the wilderness. Some readers may not always like the message or think it is relevant. But if it is God-given, somebody’s life will change. And you will receive the most important feedback you can ever hope to hear: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Thank you for your faithfulness, Shelly, to speak His truth in your own voice! I so appreciate you!
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      You have been one of my most cherished editors Lynn. Thank you for all your encouragement.

      Reply
  9. DeanneMoore

    I was brave recently and gave some honest feedback. I didn’t want to give the feedback, but it was an integrity issue, and that gave me the final kick in the pants to do it. It wasn’t received well and hasn’t changed anything. Now I am facing a similar dilemma and can’t seem to find the balance on speaking up or keeping silent. I wrote a blog that is sitting unpublished about the subject of acting verses speaking. Of course, it isn’t one or the other and that’s what is difficult for me. Sometimes speaking is acting and silence is fear. It is complicated. Unfortunately, my comment in this box is probably more compelling than the blog–a struggle you are aware of, I know. I am glad you didn’t publish a skeleton of you. I need you with your skin on…

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, you’ve been on my mind every day Dea, can’t wait to talk to you. Being truthful and honest is taking a risk isn’t it? But when we have submitted our words to God and know it would be disobedient not to share them, we have to trust Him for the outcome, even when it is unpleasant. He knows so much more than we do. I’ve had experiences when in the moment feedback wasn’t received well but later, when the dust settled it worked out for the good. Hoping that will be the case for you.

      Reply
  10. cheryl

    “Do you struggle with giving honest feedback? Or receiving it?” Yes and Yes to “Christians” anyway. I particularly dislike giving “Christians” any kind of feedback or even interacting with “Christians” in business. For people who have had much forgiven, as a group, they tend to be the most unforgiving and most judgmental of all the types of people I deal with. For some reason, the church circle seems to think it is ok to to demonize people who don’t agree with their viewpoint and even go to the point of ostracizing those who don’t see things the same way they do. On the other side, I avoid “feedback from Christians.” I have yet to receive feedback that is constructive and delivered in an attitude of love. So unless I am pushed and pushed hard by Holy Spirit, I keep my mouth shut and protect myself from “christians” as much as possible. When I have risked giving feedback, it has been met with total distain. I know myself and my gifts well enough to know when I am right and when I am functioning in my area of expertise. But after years of rejection from the church, I have chosen to focus my skills and talents where they benefit me and those who choose to work with me. I love God but I am not fond of the church.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Cheryl, you’ve given me lots of food for thought because I’ve had similar thoughts swirling in my mind about how we make idols of what we believe. It’s diabolical and insidious. My heart breaks for the way others in the body of Christ have wounded you and for the way your personal story with the church is common. Lord have mercy. Thank you for sharing your heart here, I appreciate it.

      Reply
      • cheryl

        Here is my new favorite quote from Bill Johnson that I tell myself when I run into these folks: “God is always true to His Word, however, He has no problem messing with your individual interpretation of what that word means.” Always makes me laugh.

        Reply
  11. MsLorretty

    I struggle. No doubt. But I want it and I know others do to. The crux of the issue is trust. Do we trust one another enough to do this in love and can we trust one another to see US and our hearts for HIM so that it’s iron sharpening iron instead of a public (or private) stoning…. Good food for thought friend.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I think you’ve touched on an important aspect of giving feedback, it needs to be given by people who trust each other and have a relationship. That is key.

      Reply
  12. janetb1

    A few weeks back I shared my heart with a group of people and shared with them what I felt God was sharing with me. It did not go well. I was cut down. Criticized for who God made me to be. I thought I was sharing in love…..they thought I was criticizing. Makes a person, a Christian, not want to share. Anyway I am trusting God will sort it out.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my Janet, I am so sorry to hear that. I was thinking about how sometimes what God tells us doesn’t sit well with people when I read in Mark 8 about Jesus foretelling about his death and resurrection and the reaction of Peter not wanting to accept it. Sometimes what God says isn’t received well but God is in charge of the outcome and we can do nothing about that. Take heart my friend and trust.

      Reply
      • janetb1

        Thank you for the encouragement. Yes trusting Him.

        Reply
  13. smoothstones

    Oh, I’ve totally quit giving negative feedback. Totally. I feel that it’s made me an enemy, a pariah…even though I’ve always done it one-on-one (through e-mail or fb msg) and never in comment boxes. In my experience, bloggers don’t want it, so–if someone’s writing starts to upset me or even get on my nerves–I just stop reading. I think you’re a special person, indeed, if you welcome it, Shelly. You have me wondering whether I, as a blogger, would welcome negative feedback. I’m not sure. I’ve never really received it other than having someone question a word choice. I didn’t change the word.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I happen to think that feedback when its constructive and loving broadens our perspective and helps us to be better at communicating. I never want to be captive to my own thinking, that’s why I welcome it from those I trust. I think there is a difference in being negative and constructive though. Negative can be judgmental or critical which doesn’t help at all. It just makes people feel small.

      Reply
      • smoothstones

        Agree. Word choice. I meant I’ve stopped giving feedback other than: “I love everything you wrote and how you wrote it.” Constructive is a better word choice, and words do matter. Absolutely.

        Reply
  14. David Rupert

    You addressed comments on blogs. I comment on 10 blogs per day as part of my committment to ‘be a blessing.’ I realize that I won’t always get that blessing back. That’s part of the deal with being a male blogger — i get it.

    Regarding writing — it’s hard to have your very soul (the things you put to pen) scrutinized, hacked, chopped, and rearranged. But writing isn’t like math — there is no real right answer in most cases. I work with a lot of editors and do a fair amount of editing myself. It’s painful, but I pray it’s profitable to say, “I don’t have all the right answers and I trust you to help me sound better.”

    But I still grumble.

    (And i love the photo of my favorite bloggers in my favorite place)

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I think its helpful to remember that editors are people too and make mistakes based on their own biases or experience. So for me, when I’m edited I view it as a discernment process. I don’t have to agree with everything that is being corrected but I want to have clarity where I’m blind most of all. I like the humility in what you said David, that you may not have all the right answers but your heart is in the right place. And yes, I love all those people and hope to back in that place this Fall, God willing.

      Reply
  15. Amanda Johnston Hill

    i totally get that feeling of “uh oh – am I the only one who feels this way? Did I miss something?” without any feedback. Good post, and I LOVE that picture!!!

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Amanda. But I don’t always have the luxury of a second or third pair of eyes.

      That picture carries a lot of memories with it, doesn’t it? It’s where we met. Yay!

      Reply
  16. Nikole Hahn

    Yeah, I am afraid of controversy. I am still learning to use my voice. I am still learning to be brave in my blogging; to be relevant. Great blog here. :o)

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Nikole, sorry to be so late in responding to you. I know what you mean about controversy but I’ve fond on my own blog that if my message comes from a place of love and not judgement, it helps to set the tone for comments. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, I appreciate your honesty.

      Reply
  17. dukeslee

    I enjoy feedback, but in a mutually encouraging environment. For instance, I would bristle at someone just dropping some two-sentence comment in a comment box at the end of a blog post, and trying to frame it as “helpful critique,” or getting a snarky private FB message. (Both have happened.)

    But on the flip side, I absolutely cherish the editing process I’ve undergone on my book, handled in a professional, prayerful manner for the benefit of the Kingdom.

    Your writing and voice are a gift, Shelly. Keep at it, friend.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, I get this Jennifer. And I think the more broad our audience (like yours) the more likely we are to get those kind of comments that cause our back to arch and our shoulders get tense. I think it comes down to listening to wisdom and Godly discernment and discarding the rest. Don’t you? And I suppose the only way to know that is by experience.

      Thank you for your friendship and encouragement.

      Reply
  18. Elizabeth Anne May

    I have been struggling with this myself lately. I have been stretched thin this summer and have not been doing very well with leaving comments or reading other blogs. Even when I do read something, I often haven’t been taking the time to comment. I put a post on my blog this week that hasn’t received a single comment and I’m feeling low about it. Because as you said, you start to question yourself: Have I written about this topic too often? Are people getting tired of it? Was I too personal? Is this just something that doesn’t resonate?

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Elizabeth, I do think that there are seasons of the year when our readers are busy and comments are off like you described. And perhaps its for us to discern if it is just plain old circumstance that people like yourself don’t have time to read or comment or if our writing isn’t resonating. The main thing is to keep writing. Don’t allow the feedback (or lack of it) to discourage you. The only way we know where the Spirit moves is to keep at it, listen and trust. Thanks for being here and leaving a comment. Love your honesty.

      Reply
  19. Qarau

    If you want honest feedback…then this post absolutely ROCKS!! I totally love this line “…writers don’t write for everyone, just those He brings to the welcome mat of our stories.” A much needed and timely boost as I put together the first of many eBooks to come, for His glory. Keep it coming!!

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      So glad you were inspired Qarau and may God bless the words of your eBooks.

      Reply

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why bloggers need your feedback

by Shelly Miller time to read: 3 min
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