Why we don’t respond beyond saying “thank you”

It may seem odd, or even disrespectful or rude, not to acknowledge someone’s writing offering beyond simply saying, “Thank you.”

And there are specific reasons why we hold space like this when participating in The Offering.

One is that there are so many other contexts within which we can expect to give and receive feedback and “likes.” There are all kinds of writing classes — not to mention entire degrees — where workshopping or calling out lines or images that have energy or speak to you is encouraged. Those spaces can be awesome! And this space is different.

If you’ve ever been on a meditation retreat, silent or otherwise, you could think of The Offering as being similar. When the crux of the practice is showing up to as many meditation sessions as you can, whether you feel like or not, and sitting on the chair or cushion in silence, body aches and all, until the bell rings… it would feel somewhat inappropriate to say to your fellow meditators things like, “I love how still you sat today” or “what made you smile in the middle of that session?” or “I thought you’d never stop crying” or “do you want me to show you how to light your candle without dropping the matches all over the place?”

Instead, we offer each other support in the form of our silent, judgment-free presence. Once you have experienced what a gift this silence can be, you may find yourself in a much different relationships with yourself, your practice, and your everyday interactions.

Also similar to the practice meditation, it can be really illuminating to sit with the reasons why we want to give feedback to someone’s writing offering. What’s happening in our physical bodies when we find ourselves compelled to respond to something we’ve just read? What happens if we sit with those feelings instead of whizzing off a quick email reply? Is it possible that whatever we’re wanting to say to someone is something we also want (or need?) to hear ourselves? If we find ourselves wanting to correct or educate someone, what can not doing that teach us about ourselves?

In terms of reducing the expectation that everyone must reciprocate equally — a function of capitalism that doesn’t acknowledge everyone’s differing abilities and energy levels — it can feel like a relief to be given permission to focus on your own practice! Yes, we invite you to share your own writing, with zero pressure to respond to everyone else’s.

Another reason for limiting responses is to free us up, as writers practicing our craft, to share any and everything, at any stage of the revision process, without fear or expectation of negative or positive responses. Ever been in a class and wondered why one of your pieces garnered “oohs” and “ahs” while another didn’t get any response at all? As Ross White, co-founder of The Grind, put it, “if we get all self-congratulatory for good first drafts, the silence surrounding the bad stuff will start to sting.” (I would clarify that when the intention is to make regular offerings, “good” and “bad” become meaningless as well as subjective; either you made an offering, or you didn’t, and we welcome you all the same.)

And finally, lest you start to think I’m all holier-than-thou: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared something that I think is the best thing ever with a group, and then hardly anyone to responds to it. Meanwhile, someone else’s thing gets all sorts of attention and comments. Then, instead of writing my next piece, I end up stewing in the stagnant pools of comparison and resentment, while simultaneously beating myself up for being so petty. What I’m trying to say is that I longed for a space where conditions wouldn’t encourage that particular brand of suffering.

Give it a try, this no-feedback experiment! You might love it, you might hate it, perhaps both on different days, or perhaps even both on the same day. And if you REALLY want to interact with your fellow writers, we’ll look forward to seeing you in the online community 🙂

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