Isaac posts here about giving and receiving feedback/criticism. This springs from, in part, Don Hall's thoughts and these thoughts as well.
In Isaac's posting, he writes this:
I believe that if artists are interested in growing and developing they need to get used to "taking the hit", by which I mean accepting and listening to criticism when it is given. Sometimes "taking the hit" is confused with *agreeing with* all critiques offered. This would of course be deadly to our work. But even when it is a critique that to us is wildly off base, someone is still offering something: their opinion and impression of the work, and we should take what we can from it to help us.
I wanted to throw in my two-cents. Maybe I'll speak for someone else. Who can say?
Personally, I am one of those people that closely guards the way in which I take feedback, how I respond to feedback, and from whom I invite feedback. I may receive reviews and link to them, but you'll rarely hear me argue with or comment on the reviews in a public forum, like a blog. From friends and peers, though, feedback is an odd convergence of self-interested parties, and an open discussion can be just as corrosive to me, as a playwright, than one that is closed or cut off.
The assumption made in the above statement is that the growth of someone's art is a community activity, and by opening ourselves to different perspectives, we learn and grow. We become better by wrestling actively with outside perspectives, and it behooves us to be able to wrestle with even the most off-base perspectives.
I think there's a case to be made for that. I can't say that I see how it would help me as an artist to become better at listening to other people. There are certain feedback sources that I enjoy, celebrate, even seek out. There are certain individuals whom I trust to give me something useful. But those are very rare places.
That sounds, of course, preposterously self-protecting and suspicious of the motivations of my peers. It is, in fact, a way to maintain my own center and maintain the vision of my own journey. I don't want to write plays in relationship to the way in which the last one was received... I want to write plays that speak to something I feel is true or beautiful, with my own personal aesthetic fetishes expressed in their own idiosyncratic way, and then invite people to come and see what it is I've expressed. It is not a community activity in which I seek to become a better writer: it is an expression. The more pure that expression is, the more I am successful on my own terms. So a broad, open attitude towards feedback runs counter to that goal: it makes my work about discussion, about context, about satisfying others as opposed to simply speaking to them.
The other important factor here is that my audience is not, in fact, my peers. If your audience is YOUR peers, it might be worthwhile to think that over. I love and respect all the NY bloggers, and all the other writers out here banging their heads against the brick wall. But (and I'm sure many of you have experienced this) the most detached and clinical response ones work will receive will likely be from other writers or from peers. If I want to hit people emotionally, as opposed to do something "interesting," speaking to my peers is an uphill battle from the start.
Suffice to say, there are plenty who read this blog that I have asked directly for feedback. And I've certainly gone through that lovely dance of being reviewed all over the place. It's fun, it's part of the business, and we all need to come to our own peace with it.
As a writer, it is not understanding or a steel will or a sturdy self-image or the ability to grow that I most value: it is my own personal vision. Others may value my ability to receive their feedback with grace, and I certainly hope to have that skill. I may be able to learn something from others, but that's a process I have to control, and let no one's judgment of my ability to do so sway the way in which I act. First and foremost, I think of my own comfort and to reduce the number of voices that are talking to me as I try to work my way through a script.
In short: there will be countless points of view on my work, but only one of them is mine.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.