Hello friends! My name is Elliot Raff, and I’m a Level Two judge from Boston, MA. I’m honored to be joining the Feedback Loop as an editor and contributor. Today, I am going to start a series of articles on how to overcome a barrier that I think has gone largely overlooked in the field of feedback – sitting down and writing.
The page is blank. I hate the blank page. What is it about the white space that bothers me so? If it were a person, sitting in front of me, you wouldn’t be able to shut me up.
That’s it, Elliot. Feedback should be a conversation.
But you had the conversation already.
Come on, you know better. We write to supplement the conversation, not to replace it.
Why was that? I’ve written articles before. I have a degree in English Education. I have absolutely no problem with writing, and yet I couldn’t make myself just do it. I tried thinking of the recipient of my review, how this could benefit them. Still, that wasn’t always enough to get it done. It was still something that, at the end of the day, I had to sit down and do. It didn’t matter if the feedback was positive or negative. I just hated sitting and staring at a blank space, so I avoided it.
When Riki Hayashi put out the solicitation for editors for the Feedback Loop, he asked applicants to bring up issues that faced the advancement of feedback in the judge program. It was at that point that I was able to crystallize my thoughts. I couldn’t be the only person who was experiencing this problem. The actual writing was a barrier to writing reviews.
Writing is hard. It’s even harder when you are writing specifically for someone else.
Lots of people put out articles every day. In Magic, this might be the latest Standard tech, or a new draft strategy, or generic play tips. Authors are writing to a target audience, which in most cases is a rather wide net. Judges don’t have that luxury with reviews. If I write a review, I am writing it for one other person. There’s a lot of anxiety that can be caused by giving feedback at all – but writing down your thoughts comes with so many pitfalls. You want to get your point across, but not too harshly. You have to make sure you don’t ramble, that there are no spelling errors, no run-on sentences. Writing is hard because you’re human, and you want to do well.
So, like every human ever, you procrastinate. And then it’s a week after the event. And then a month. And then the event isn’t fresh in your mind, so it’s better not to write it at all.
This was me. And I even identify as a freaking writer!
Ultimately, writing is a process. And, like any process, you have to begin somewhere. Don’t think about it. Just start. Write your heart, and then, once you’ve started, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to stop. If you think you should, don’t. That’s what revisions are for. This is not the place to choose your words carefully. Fill the page with your thoughts, your ideas, your criticisms and your praise. Write until you are empty. Then, once you are, you can go back and make it make sense. Or give it to an editor and they’ll do it for you.
This review is for you as much as it is for the person you are writing it for. It’s for you to practice with, a place for you to begin your journey of discovery.