Not one, but two, count ’em – TWO, fantastic get-to-know-you chats with some fellow local writers over the past week. (Eight days if you want to get technical about it)
As part of one of these discussions, the topic of dealing with criticism came up. In particular, criticism that seems to come from a harsh, angry place. They go way beyond “This needs work”, and potentially surpass the purpose of notes to the point of simply being downright cruel.
“This is shit. Whoever told you you could write?”
“Any attempt to fix this would be a waste of time. Just give up now.”
Chances are you’ve been on the receiving end of these kinds of notes. I certainly have.
When we’re first starting out, we don’t realize how much we don’t know, and that’s reflected on the page. There’s not one experienced writer who thinks their first script or two was perfect.
So you work at it. You toil away, constantly putting in the effort to improve. And over time, you do. You know you’ve gotten better, and that also comes through on the page. Maybe you’ve even gotten compliments or (gasp!) praise about your work.
But despite your progress, you might still get a note like those above that totally trashes what you’ve written. This has also happened to me. Fairly recently, I might add.
What myself and the other writer discussed was “Where does this anger come from?” We’ve both been doing this for a while, so neither of us is a total noob. We each had more than a few scripts under our respective belts, so what could possibly be the basis for such a mean-spirited rant?
I casually threw out something I’d only read about and heard in the occasional mention: Could the person giving the notes be jealous of the material, and they were venting their anger and frustration about it via their notes?
Let me set one thing straight. I think I’m a good writer, but I will never claim to be the be-all and end-all. In fact, I’d be amazed if somebody was jealous of my work.
When I read somebody else’s script and find it totally amazing, I’ll tell them so. Do I wish I could write something that good? Sure, but it makes me want to work harder so I can. I don’t think “I’ll never be as good as them, so I’ll shit all over their material in order to make myself feel better.”
Taking this kind of negative approach can only result in a lose-lose scenario for you. You make yourself look bad and the other person will most likely not want anything to do with you anymore. And don’t think they’re going to forget you. To them, you’ll always be that angry asshole.
Something else to keep in mind – you never know who’s going to succeed, so the person whose script you just trashed could potentially be the next big thing. Wouldn’t you rather be on their good side, and not their shit list?
I work really hard to establish and maintain my network of connections, and value each one too much to do that. I want everybody to succeed and actually enjoy helping if and when I can.
But then again, I’m just a nice guy to begin with. Even if I do occasionally end sentences with a preposition.
But that’s nothing to be jealous about.