Generally speaking, I’m not big on podcasts (because I have a hard time focusing on and retaining audio-only information) but there is one that I make sure to tune into every week: Scriptnotes by screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. John and Craig are funny, irreverent, and informative, and most of their insights apply to writing in general, not just writing for Hollywood.
A few episodes ago, they talked about “taking notes” – i.e., accepting feedback – and there were 2 points that really stuck out to me.
1. Deny, Defend, Debate
These are the normal human reactions to criticism. We reject what we don’t like; we justify what we do like; we argue about it all. These instincts are very human, yes – but they’re not all that helpful when it comes to improving our work (or ourselves).
For this reason, in many workshops, the author of a story being critiqued is not permitted to speak until after everyone else has shared their feedback. (Sometimes the author isn’t allowed to speak at all!) This forced silence keeps the deny-defend-debate monster waiting… and waiting… and waiting some more… so that by the time the writer finally gets a chance to open their mouth, that 3-D ogre may have given up and left altogether! At the very least, it should be lethargic or off-guard, allowing everyone’s feedback to slip by and reach the writer’s (hopefully open) mind.
Another technique I use to combat my own 3-D monster is to just say yes. No matter how much I hate a suggestion, or disagree with an edit, I force myself to accept it, to sit with it for a while, and then to reevaluate. After a few hours (or a few days), if it still doesn’t feel right, then I’m allowed to go back to what I had before. But more often than not, I find myself sticking with the changes my crit partners suggest.
All that being said, no matter how open-minded you try to be, sometimes feedback can be hard to swallow simply because of how it’s being delivered. Which leads me to… [Read more…]