Friday, May 13, 2011

Depending on the "Click"

I am not a "real" photographer. I just happen to live in a beautiful place. And lately the weather has inspired me to pick up whatever camera is handy and shoot stuff. Like this.

That's an island lurking out there.

So yesterday I was snapping away and noticed that the camera was acting funny. (Technical term! Many more to follow!) When I pushed the round "take a picture" button, the image in the viewfinder froze as it usually does, but there was no sound. No "I just took a picture" click. I wasn't sure, till I uploaded these shots, that I had actually taken pictures.

The "I just took a picture" click of a digital camera is apparently without a useful purpose. Yet I depended on it, and didn't realize how much until there it was, gone.

The experience got me thinking about writing. One of the hardest parts of working as a freelance writer has been the lack of routine feedback. Business experts may scoff at formal performance reviews, but I found them useful. Getting ready for one was a great chance for me to evaluate my own performance and plan for the future, and learning how I was perceived was usually interesting. However, freelancers usually don't have performance reviews. Though I have substituted regular check-ins of various types, the type of feedback isn't the same.

As a freelancer, it's also more difficult (though not impossible) to stick my head in the boss's office and say, "I'm thinking of this, whaddaya think?"

The real feedback is the "yes" of the assignment and then the "yes" of future assignments. That's enough, of course, to know that you've done something of value to someone.

Mechanisms for feedback can be even more scarce for creative writing. Send out a piece and not only do you sometimes wait months for a "no," sometimes you don't even hear that much--just crickets. Getting a "click" is a good reason to belong to a critique group or to meet other writers TO WRITE (not to complain about writing). And yes, to keep submitting.

But here's another thought: what if you just did the work and didn't worry about the "click" at all? Could the doing of the work be enough?

I still took pictures yesterday, even without hearing a "click." Similarly, if I'm writing, I'm still writing, even if/when I don't get feedback on a specific piece.

Do I depend too much on the "click"? Do you?

No answers. Just questions.