Critique, love it or hate it, is part of the screenwriting process. Now, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and downright toxic feedback. There are writers out there who believe that their writing is the epitome of what writing should be and they hold everyone accountable to their standards. Everyone is a little different and everyone wants to see a particular aspect in a script. I’ve had one script get incredible kudos from a producer and torn to shreds by a script reader. Yes, it’s that kind of roller coaster ride. All-in-all, we’re supposed to develop a thick skin in this industry, at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. Understood.
Here’s the thing, though. Feedback doesn’t have to be so damn toxic. I’ve seen the toxicity of feedback in peer writing groups (not necessarily directed at me) and it’s atrocious. I recently read a book by Joni Cole called “Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive”. Every person who has any intention of giving a writer feedback, should take the time to read this book. I’ve heard the jokes that writers are too sensitive, but they can also be very insensitive to fellow writers when giving feedback. Two things that I use everyday from Joni Cole’s book that has allowed me to dismiss certain toxic feedback:
- Feedback isn’t about the reviewer, it’s about your writing. Throwing a tantrum when you get negative feedback and calling the reviewer names, etc. won’t make your writing any better.
- Bottom line is this: It’s your art, your creativity, your story. If a recommendation doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Just make sure you’re not reacting to the emotions and truly ask yourself if what they’re saying would improve your writing. If so, then make the changes and you’ve learned something.
Advice to peer reviewers out there – don’t read something just once. Read it the first time for enjoyment, then read it a second time for constructive feedback. Always make your feedback constructive as possible without being accusatory or downright hurtful. Either way, it’s not a competition about your way being better than anyone else’s… different is still a good thing.