Today I am grateful for opinions. If I ask for an opinion it means I really want one. An honest one. Even if I’m not thrilled about it. Besides, I can spot phony a mile away.
You cannot be an artist of any sort without being able to handle an honest opinion. Otherwise how would we grow? Do I like all of the opinions I get? No, of course not. Does anyone? Do I learn something from every opinion, whether perceived as negative or positive? Sure do. Probably more from a negative opinion than a positive one, because they seem to stick tighter and scream louder. But even a negative opinion can be couched in a way where it will encourage and not disrespect.
When I was back living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, there was a theater critic who worked for the local newspaper. She loved the community theater company and with each production she wrote glowing, sugary, over-the-top reviews full of accolades and dripping with praise. But when you’re in a show, you know where the weak links are. Maybe it’s the set changes, or the lighting was flubbed, or you missed a cue and didn’t show up at all like I did one time. How can you be a reviewer without mentioning those obvious flaws? Soon you lose all credibility. After a while we didn’t even believe the praise anymore because it came off too flowery. Nothing is ever perfect. You don’t have to be mean, just at least notice and render a true, honest opinion. Otherwise you could phone in your review without ever seeing the show. When the toilet paper is hanging out of your pants you don’t need someone saying you look great. You need someone to be honest and tell you to yank that paper outta there.
It’s the same way with writing. I’ve been to writer’s conferences where a critique is requested by someone and then when the expert, the professional who has been asked to critique begins to point out flaws, the writer gets angry. Didn’t you ask for an opinion? Why get pissed at the person giving one? Grow up.
It’s true for play readings, too. If you read your play to an audience and there is a talk-back following the reading, you’re going to get comments. I have been at a few of these where the author vehemently argued back, defending his/her choices. Didn’t you ask for comments? Some threw their notebook. One nearly punched someone and ran from the room slamming doors and shouting profanities. Not cool. Toughen up. Sure it’s your baby, but not all babies start out that beautiful. Some have to grow into it.
If you have any professional class at all, you will sit with your notebook, write down every single comment, nod politely, thank each person and pleasantly leave the stage. You can go hysterical and bawl in your car on the way home, but there, on site, you gotta take it! Then it’s up to you to decide which comments you will take a deeper look at. And you should take a deeper look, because maybe you will learn something. Being stubborn stifles growth. Some will be pure nonsense, but not all and even the stupid comments should cause you to look at your work with a more discerning, objective eye.
I love praise and compliments. Who doesn’t? But I learn more from constructive criticism. That’s why when I recently received an honest opinion, I realized how grateful I am for it. I can take it. Oh boy, am I opening the door now! Please be gentle