I have experienced note sessions more painful than breaking up with a girlfriend.
A note session, for those unfamiliar, is when you muster the courage to put your ideas on paper, you spend hours writing and re-writing, wordsmithing and crafting, then you take your story to a group of people and say, “What do you think?”
I’ve sat through hours of note sessions over the years, either giving notes or receiving them, most in the context of a writers group. They are incredibly valuable, but can also be, at times, painful. Your story is your baby and you really want people to love your baby. So when they start pointing out your baby's flaws, it can be an unpleasant experience.
Here’s the thing: if you write a script and you don’t listen to any notes you receive, the end result will be a bad script. On the other hand, if you write a script and you try to implement every note you receive, the end result will also be a bad script.
I’m convinced that receiving notes and knowing how to apply them is a skill that must be honed with practice. Here are few things I’ve learned over the years:
Find people you trust. Note sessions are useless if the readers are not going to be honest with you. So giving your script to a curious friend probably isn’t going to do you much good. They’ll tell you they liked it. You need to find people who you trust to tell you the truth. Paying a service for an anonymous evaluation may be worth the investment if you don’t feel you have those honest voices in your life.
Listen. Listen. Listen. Don’t be defensive. It’s amateur. Be grateful. They could have been reading Shakespeare, but instead they took time to read your work. Conserve your energy for the rewrite instead of arguing with the reader that they just don’t “get it.”
Beware. Not all notes are good notes. Some people will give you all sort of ways to make your story, their story. Good notes will help you tell the story you want to tell.
Look for patterns. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with the most consistent feedback. If two people commented that they were confused in act one, even if it is not at the same point, then you have an act one problem. Start there.
Get back to work. The note session may reveal that you have a lot more work to do. This can be disheartening. If you need time to lick your wounds, put a clock on it. You have 24 hours to sulk. When the time is up, get back to work.
Treat yourself to Ice Cream. Feedback is part of the creative process. Yes, it can be painful, but it is absolutely necessary. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. When it’s over, treat yourself to some ice cream and tell yourself, “You’ve made it this far. Don’t stop now.”
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A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES