1. Is it a good idea to seek feedback on your writing? It depends. You may be working against a tight deadline and have limited time to seek feedback before you need to submit. In these cases, I don't seek feedback. At other times, you may feel confident about what you're doing and won't feel the need to invite feedback. I look for feedback when there's time for it and when I feel it will be useful. In other words, when I have some doubts about the writing. Usually these doubts revolve around the beginning and the ending, and the overall tone of the work
2. To whom should I go for feedback? It's a good idea to have two or three people you trust who are willing to provide feedback. I have a close friend who is an experienced, savvy business consultant. When I'm writing about business topics and I have time and some doubts, I'll email him my work and ask him to provide feedback. I also ask my wife for feedback. She's a skilled editor and has always been able to spot weaknesses is my writing, which has been tremendously helpful.
3. What is good feedback? Well, it depends on what you need. I like to have feedback that spots problems in the writing, but I don't want the person to offer me specific solutions. In my opinion, it's the writer's role to find solutions to the problems. With my wife, for example, I always ask her to point out problems but don't tell me how to solve them.
Good feedback is always about the work itself and never about the writer. The feedback should be as specific as possible. "The ending doesn't feel right," isn't great feedback. It recognizes a problem, but the writer wants to understand the problem in more detail. Better feedback might be, "the ending doesn't seem to tie together what you've written before, so it seems inorganic and tacked on." With this latter feedback, I can analyze and solve the problem. All good writers must be strong problem-solvers.
4. What if the feedback is more about the person giving feedback than the writer? Then disregard it. Sometimes, the giver of feedback would handle the writing differently from you or write with a different tone. That's fine, but the writer is the owner of the work and it must reflect the writer's perspective not that of the person offering feedback. The writer should take in all feedback, but also retains the right to disregard it completely after considering it. If, for example, you write a personal essay about a painful childhood experience, nobody has the right to tell you not to share that story or to make it more upbeat. These choices are yours alone.
5. Do the same feedback rules apply to editors? Yes, but editors should be able to both identify problems and also help you fix them. Editors are supposed to understand the "editorial voice" of the publication or client, so if a writer is off target with the voice/tone, a good editor will help you get back on target with specific suggestions. Like a good writer, a good editor is also a problem-solver. Editors who merely point out problems ('the tone doesn't feel quite right. Can you change it and re-submit?") are not effective editors, and writers won't much enjoy writing for them.
What has been your experience with receiving feedback? Please feel free to share your thoughts . . .