By Carson King
Updated: January 12, 2021
“Success is not for those who want it, nor those who need it, but for those who are utterly determined to seize it—whatever it takes.”
– Darren Hardy
Nobody likes essay feedback.
Heck, nobody even likes essays.
Together, they’re the two absolute worst things in the world: boring papers and getting yelled at for writing those boring papers. As awful and life-sucking as they may seem, essays have the uncanny ability to make or break everything you love.
So listen up buttercup.
Essays aren’t just essays either. How you write essays is how you write your resumes, your business cards, your birthday cards, and affect how you talk. Writing skills are critical for law school and the bar exam. The “art of words” is paramount to your success, and the “art of receiving criticism” is paramount to that growth.
So, you’re going to take essay feedback like a gentleman or gentlewoman. When you get your paper back from your professor, you are going to channel Alfred from Batman and just . . . take it.
You may hate it. It doesn’t matter.
You’re here to win, so prepare to swim through some serious crap. What’d you expect, a participation award?
Why gentlemen and gentlewomen seek feedback
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
– Ken Blanehard
We use essay feedback the same way we use mirrors—to see ourselves from another angle. Of course we can read and re-read our own papers again and again, but that’s like putting on make-up in a dark room.
Only so helpful.
The more “feedback.” you get, the more “mirrors” you have at your disposal. The skill of getting good feedback and using it effectively will set you apart from the other 90% of the students who are too lazy to do it.
Feedback is necessary for everyone who wants to improve in their craft:
- It provides a new perspective
- Reinforces the good
- Exposes bad habits and “easy” mistakes
- Feedback is the only score that also tells you how to IMPROVE your score.
Feedback is a “living statistic.” Unlike the bland “C+” written on the top of your page, the words of advice (the feedback itself) tells you why, how, and how to do better. It’s infinitely more valuable than the “grade” itself.
Handle criticism gracefully
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
– Bill Gates.
Before we continue, why are you slouching?
Straighten up Mr. or Ms. Reader, the last thing you need is a back problem.
So depending on how you took that criticism may say a lot about you. The most successful people in the world prefer criticism to compliments. Why? Because criticism is a direct invitation to become better.
- Encourage people to be brutally honest. Sugar-coated cookies don’t help you lose weight, and sugar-coated words don’t help you lose the bullshit in your paper
- Take notes
- Be grateful and comfortable. If you look like a stone golem every time someone tries to help you, nobody’s going to want to help you!
- Ask questions. Understand their points
- Unless God himself is judging your paper, the “critiquer” of your paper can also make mistakes
- Actually take and use their advice
Don’t be useless, and don’t waste other people’s time. Only ask for feedback if you’re actually interested in using it.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
– Bruce Lee
Sometimes we get too much information.
When receiving feedback, remember to calm down. You may want to pull a Leonidas and die fighting for what you believe in, taking on every criticism with 110% bull-shredded power and bringing justice to your blasted thesis statement.
Pick one or two things and really drill into them. There’s a certain beauty to depth—something you can’t achieve if you’re bouncing around your paper with the speed of a wild gazelle.
- Focus on themes. How is your grammar? Does it sound good out-loud? Could you use more facts? How can you improve your “hook.”
- Don’t be afraid to go through your paper multiple times, over multiple days. Giving time for your mind to “relax and reset” will improve your discernment.
- Be focused. If Facebook, TikTok, or your mother’s cooking distracts you, delete them.
It’s simple, really. Swallow your food before taking another bite.
“The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson.”
You know that joke, “if a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, did it really fall?”
In the same way, “if a person learns something and does nothing with it, did they really learn?”
Learning is a two-step process: a take and a give. Learning and using. Think yin-and-yang. Remember why you wanted to learn this. Remember why you clicked this blog. Don’t leave as the same person.
Here’s my invitation to you:
- Take a small, yet clear action right now (like a note on your phone, doing a single pushup, or pulling out your essay paper)
- Pick one to three people who can give you feedback
- Go read some more blogs on this subject
Thanks for reading—hopefully this was helpful! Good luck mastering the art of the most boringly violent skill on the planet: The Art of Essay Feedback.