Constructive criticism – a force for good

If I can't hear you, then it's not true
If I can’t hear you, then it must not be true

If you met someone who does the same thing you do, but has been doing it longer and with more success, wouldn’t you ask them for advice on how you could get to their level, and more importantly, heed that advice?

While I’m not a professional writer (yet), others, mostly on the newer side, will ask me for feedback on their script.  If I have the time, I’ll do it, and offer up what guidance and suggestions I can.

My notes are sent with the reminder that these are just my opinions to do with as they see fit. Fortunately, most of the responses have been positive and appreciative.

But once in a while, somebody will disagree with what I’ve said or totally ignore it. That’s their choice. They came to me seeking help, and I guess didn’t like what I had to say.

I once asked somebody what kind of material it was, and the answer was long-winded and very academic. While they were droning on, I couldn’t help but think “If they tried to pitch this to a producer, that meeting would probably be over right about now.”

Asking another writer for their logline, I got what sounded more like the short paragraph you’d see on the back of a novel. I tried a few different approaches, each time hoping to point them in the right direction as well as coax out some of the creativity they claimed to have. No such luck. After offering up what you do and don’t want to have in a logline, the response was a curt “Got it. Thanks.”  Can’t say I didn’t try.

Part of me wonders if my advice would be taken more seriously if I charged for it.

You came to me for help, remember? Just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t mean it’s not true.

I’m not trying to be mean. Quite the opposite. There are hard truths about this business that some people just refuse to acknowledge. All of us who came before you learned them the hard way, and if you want to make it, then you’re going to have to do the same.

2 thoughts on “Constructive criticism – a force for good

  1. Good post!

    I find there are two people who ask for opinions on their creative work: 1) those who want to make the work better, and 2) those who want validation that the work is brilliant.

    I will the first group as much help as I can and they desire…I try to keep my interactions with the second group as short as possible.

    Oh, and of course, I like to think I reside within the first group when soliciting input.

  2. Me too. One of the biggest disadvantages to just starting out is not knowing what you don’t know, which you eventually learn over time, so then you know what you don’t know and know what you have to do.

    Y’know?

    In the case of the one writer with the logline, he wasn’t seeking help. I was being friendly and making conversation. I’ve learned experienced writers are more than happy to talk about their projects, while newbies won’t, for fear of “somebody stealing their idea.” But his answers were so vague that I had to keep trying different ways of drawing information out of him.

    I don’t think he cared for it.

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