Surviving the Suck of Feedback

Feedback sucks.

Yeah, it’s great and all. It helps you refine and improve your work.

But it’s also kind of a nightmare. Everyone has opinions. Sometimes they’re contradictory. Sometimes they don’t make sense. Sometimes they make you wanna quit writing and become an accountant.

Feedback can be a storm of noise and ideas that seriously knocks your confidence or derails your work.

Spending a lot of time in a rehearsal room, working on my plays, taught me a lot about processing feedback. It’s something you have to learn as a playwright, otherwise you’ll find yourself crying in the green room halfway through rehearsal.

Here are three survival tips for holding the feedback monster at bay:

1. Remember that no feedback is objective. No one critiques in a vacuum. People bring their experience and their taste to the table when they’re giving you feedback. Learn to hear those things in their feedback. Are they trying to make your story sound like the stuff they write? Are they trying to make it sound more like the stuff they like? Are they trying to show off? Are they sucking up? Weigh that subjectiveness against the advice.

2. Pay attention to what makes you feel something. I always pay close attention to the feedback that makes me feel something. Stuff that makes me angry. Stuff that makes me feel seen. Stuff that makes me feel vulnerable. If I respond emotionally to a piece of feedback — even a negative emotion — there’s got to be something there I need to hear and process. The stuff that doesn’t move you… discard it.

3. Process feedback with you at the center. I always ask myself, “Does this feedback help me accomplish what I want to do with this story?” Because in the end, that’s what matters. Trying to craft a story or a play that satisfies everyone else’s ideas is bullshit. It will ruin your work. Center yourself. Center what you want to do with your work. The feedback that helps you do that better or more clearly is the feedback you keep. Everything else goes away.