Monthly Archives: January 2015

Feed(back) Starvation or Finding a tool to fix a writing problem: Community.

There’s a phenomenon in fountain pen mechanics called feed starvation. Fountain pens work on the principal of capillary action (or flow) similar to the way our tiniest blood vessels work. Clean and simple explanation on this page:

The parts of the fountain pen that facilitate this capillary action from the ink reservoir to the writing tip (nib) are the section, tube, and feed. When something prevents the ink from getting to the feed, it is starved. A starved feed means your pen won’t write.

Can you see where this is going?

I’ve put out a few stories to contests (no wins) and journals (no responses) and I’ve asked a couple of people to read my work (no responses or limited responses). The reasonable me (she who is in control of 90% of my processor cycles, give or take) says of those family and friends, “They have their own lives. It’s hard to find time to read eight pages. You’re an unemployed hausfrau who has time for that stuff so don’t be hard on them.”

The petulant child who needs validation or at the very least, acknowledgment, says, “Damn! It’s eight bloody pages! At least nod in my direction.” The paranoid artist in me thinks, he or she read the eight pages, thought the they were awful and has decided it’s better not to say anything because he or she only has bad things to say. Of course, anything not acknowledged by contests or journals is obviously trash.

I write because I love writing, but I admit that I have a need for validation and every other writer I have met, save one, has had the same need. Not to say we need constant praise—just the acknowledgment that our work was read, considered, and perhaps some nugget of beauty or truth seen in it. Without validation, I suffer from feed(back) starvation. My pen won’t write.

So, recently I joined Scribophile and began contributing critiques. Last night I screwed up enough courage to submit something for critique. It was helpful to get some feedback. It remains to be seen if the critique environment will match that of my classes. I think, more important than the critique is a new sense of accountability. Knowing I was going to put something in front of people who could very well rip it to shreds, I chopped out some of the fluff. Not enough, apparently, but it’s a start.

Another benefit to a community like Scribophile is the process of critiquing others. In sizing up other works, I see my own flaws looking back at me. When I return to my stories, I can rework them more objectively and with keener vision. I’ve been tucked away in my cave with my red pen and my own work as a go-by for several months. Reading published works is important for learning what to work toward, but reading other works-in-progress reminds me of that we all have to edit and there are a variety of ways to do so.

I’d love to see some of my classmates find their way to the community. From what I can tell, quite a number of the workshopped pieces do get published. I’ll be happy if Scribophile can be my feedback supply but even if it isn’t, I think I’ll gain from it.

However, there are problems for someone like me. I am a slow reader and a verbose critic. This means that for every piece I want to post for critique, it takes me a great deal more time to earn the karma required than it likely takes others. I am ready to post a second chapter but I don’t have enough karma. It also means that I have to be careful not to make my writing life turn into my Scribophile life. I don’t need a Scribophile problem anymore than I need a Facebook problem. As with anything, it’s about discipline.


So, if you’re looking for feedback and your blog isn’t enough and your family and friends are sporadic at best, check it out and see what you think.

I do have a selfish motive in this. I’d like to see people I know show up there. I miss you guys and I always trusted your input. However, I also think it has the potential to help some writers. It’s not for everyone, I’m sure. I’m not even entirely sold on the idea for myself. Check back with me in six months.