Embracing Criticism or Stop Being Right
There’s a reason I like to call it feedback instead of criticism. First, feedback doesn’t sound so harsh, and second, most people (even writers) don’t know how to properly give constructive criticism. But let’s look at the word criticism before we decide how to deal with it. We’re going to ignore the first definition that uses words like disapproval and mistakes, because that doesn’t serve our needs. We’re going to use this definition: “the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.” That serves our purpose.
The human mind is in total defense of the ego. Just look at politics. Once we train our brains to move away from ego defense we are able to hear thoughts that don’t jive with ours. Try going through the day being able to relate to someone else’s opinions, particularly when they don’t agree with yours. That’s a challenge. Because our brain tells us we are right! And maybe we are… and then again, maybe it’s not a matter of right.
Right is an ego word. Being right feels great, but it doesn’t always solve the problem.
And therein lies the rub.
Screenplays are about problems, or more specifically, creating and solving problems. It’s impossible to solve problems when you’re stuck in ego and refuse to hear options.
Be honest. Have you ever had an “aha” moment? Imagine if those could come fast and often. That’s what feedback can deliver. Feedback can elevate your story and writing and help you leap forward with greater speed. Who wouldn’t want that?
The way to take feedback is simple. Pretend you didn’t write the script. Be an outside observer. Seriously. When you can take an observer position, distancing yourself from the material, it’s easier to hear and see the material.
When you’re receiving feedback, don’t speak. Do not say a word. Do not form an opinion about what is being said. Simply listen. Take notes. How many times did the same issue come up? How many times did you get the same note from different people? Ask yourself what your story might look like if you applied a note – or considered that there might be a stronger way to address issues in your script.
When you can open your mind and free it from ego bondage, you’ll be amazed by how quickly your writing and story can improve.