Beliefs,  Creativity,  Interesting,  Screenwriting

How to Receive and Process Feedback

When I first started getting feedback on my scripts, I focused on self-validation. It never occurred to me to focus on anything else. I was either a good writer or a bad one. 

One fellow writer swooned about my writing and asked if I had written a lot of scripts. My characters were amazing, the dialogue was phenomenal…I felt like a screenwriting prodigy. 

Later that same day, I received feedback from another writer, pages and pages of it, about what was not working in my screenplay. This person warned me not to send it to producers, that it was not anywhere near ready, that it was basically a hot mess. 

I was devastated. I made that negative feedback mean everything about who I was as a person and my ability to write. I shut down that project at that moment. In my mind, I completely canceled out the good feedback I had gotten prior to that. 

I used to blame the person who gave me that feedback for being the reason I never finished the script or continued to market it. Fast forward 15 years; I see now it was me who shut that project down. Not because of the feedback, but because I was not willing to learn anything new about what I had written. 

I’ve seen my demise replayed over and over through other writers. Writers, or any creative, can be their own worst enemy on every level. I finally said, “Someone needs to stop this madness!” and that is why I became a creative coach. 

So, I’m going to share with you four tips for receiving and processing feedback on your creative projects. 

Get Into the Right Emotion

You want to get yourself into an emotion that allows you to be open to a new perspective, to see things differently so that you can create new and elevated results with the feedback you do get. 

That is the purpose of getting the feedback. 

Some great emotional spaces to get yourself into before processing or receiving feedback are curiosity, commitment, or desire to learn as much as you can so that you can elevate your project and become more skilled.  

Spaces to avoid are feeling rushed, angry, defensive, resentful, self-righteous, desperate, frustrated, or bitter. Feeling the need to explain your every decision is a sign you’re not open to receiving the learning aspect of feedback or coaching.

These emotions close you off to learning and finding solutions. If you find yourself feeling any of the above emotions when reviewing feedback, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself and see if those emotions are serving you.  

It’s normal to have these emotions; just be aware of them when you’re having them and decide you’re going to put the feedback away until you can receive or respond from a better state of emotion. Allow yourself to feel the crappy emotions, but also decide you’re not going to stay there. If you find yourself continuing to indulge in these crappy emotions but have enough awareness to realize that they are keeping you from moving forward, you can get coaching on that. Maybe you just don’t know how to process everything, and coaching can help you learn how to do this so you’re not getting hung up on constructive criticism in the feedback you receive.

Commit to Elevating and Finding Solutions

Before receiving feedback on your project, remind yourself that you are seeking to elevate your project first and foremost. Yes, it’s nice to get validation but it’s not the reason you should be getting feedback. 

This is the best way to get into a good emotional state and something to remind yourself of when those other undesirable emotions start creeping in. You want to think about different perspectives, you want to find solutions for any trouble spots, you want to make your project the best it can possibly be. So, just notice if you find yourself getting defensive about proposed solutions or suggestions, or upset because there is a lack of validation – the entire point is to get help. 

Have Your Own Back

Be careful to not take feedback personally. It means nothing about your worthiness as a human being. There is the feedback that someone gives and there is what you make that feedback mean. You have complete control over that. You don’t have control over what someone thinks or how they perceive something. 

Getting tough feedback doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do, it just means you have a chance to elevate your project, your skillset, and your ability to receive feedback so that it becomes a tool instead of an obstacle. Feedback, when you ask for it, is 99% of the time not a personal attack on you. 

Often people will interpret feedback through the filter of how they speak to themselves about their own project. So, make sure you are giving yourself critiques from a place of wanting to find solutions and improve upon your project. Give yourself feedback the way you would like to receive feedback. Treat yourself with respect and kindness, even when you’re having a tough time or struggling with elevating your project or when you’re experiencing negative emotions about it. You will be much more likely to show up for yourself and your project regardless of what kind of feedback or critique you get when you have your own back. 

Remind yourself that the person giving you feedback or coaching you is on the same side. They want to see you elevate your work and are usually honored that you trust their opinion. At least I know I am when people come to me for coaching or feedback. Of course, there are people who are going to be bad at giving feedback, but this is why it’s really important to have your own back, all of the time. 

Create a Strong Critique Circle

Find your circle of people you go to for feedback – those who are going to be the best at helping you elevate your project – and stick with them.

You should be able to have around five or six people in your circle: maybe a couple of writing peers, a coach, a script consultant, and some friends whose opinions you value. I also like to include giving it to someone who is not in the industry. My daughter is excellent at giving feedback on query letters and synopses. 

I end with this Twitter post I saw from James Clear on handling rejection and success. 

The Ideal Feedback Processing Mindset

How to handle rejection:

-Learn from the experience

-Keep your ego in check

-Say “thank you”

-Try again

How to handle success:

-Learn from the experience

-Keep your ego in check

-Say “thank you”

-Try again

It’s what we could all aspire to as creatives putting our work out into the world where it belongs.

Don’t miss the February I Heart Writers Special! Rewrite Coaching + Coverage. Get it here.