It's interesting what sticks to us. I have a good friend who is a filmmaker and he finished his first feature last year. It's pretty good. I liked it quite a bit. Is there room for improvement? Sure. Are there things he could have done better? Absolutely. But overall, it's a pretty darn good film. In my opinion. It's got some real talent and craft in it and some good writing. And I think my opinion counts for quite a bit. It's not just that I think well of myself, I've had a lot of education and training and deep thinking about the art of film, so I take myself seriously and don't hand out compliments easily. Still, so much of this does come down to personal taste.
My friend got this one pretty bad review, though. I mean, it was kind of awful and mean. He can quote it. I think he memorized it. Never mind that he had quite a few really good reviews, not to mention a lot of good feedback from me and others. Positive and realistic feedback that would help him in his next film.
But he doesn't quote me. He quotes this bad review. And we laugh about it. But I know it hurt. I know it always hurts. We always remember the bad shit people say about us and not the good stuff. I don't know why, maybe it's easier to beat ourselves up that way.
I know a guy who hates "The Princess Bride". Only guy I ever met who hates it. But he does. If he had been in charge, that movie would never have seen daylight.
Which brings me to my point. I had awful, nasty, self serving feedback from someone. I laughed about it at first because it was so absurd but later on it started to hurt. And it started to work it's way into my body like some really nasty virus that I couldn't control. I was covered by this wound and it just washed over me. It took my breath away, I felt heavy, I wanted to cry and rage but all I could do was lie there in a fetal position with my cat and hurt.
Here are some words : "insipid execution, ridiculous inane dialogue, any remote connection to real people and real life was accidental. I don't know if this author has ever had a date or even a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Stilted, forced, wooden."
I have NEVER had such vitriolic words written about my writing and I've been writing since I was seven. This attack was so vicious and cruel, I didn't quite know what to do. I've been pretty lucky. Even anonymously, people have overwhelmingly been mostly kind about my writing. Even if it wasn't his/her particular cup of tea. And when it wasn't exactly kind, it was reasonable and on point. And that is fine. I want to know if something isn't working.
When my friend was talking about his bad review, I kept wondering, why aren't you quoting all the wonderful things that other people said about you? Why does this stick to you?
These words were supposed to be feedback. And as long as I have been giving feedback to other authors who come to me for help, I have never been that big a bitch in my life. Why? Because it isn't useful to an author. I have seen stuff that will curl your hair, it's so bad. But, I take it apart at its core and tell the person what is wrong and how to improve, even if I personally think there is not much talent there. Because it's not my job to be mean. It's my job to be useful. I'm not sure what purpose this serves, this vitriol. I've had lesser and greater reviews of my work. I take constructive criticism to heart and I will never ignore a good suggestion.
Today, I am going to take to heart the advice I gave my friend. Take the good, too. I think that I'm closing this with other words.
"That line was pure genius. I laughed out loud so many times. Your screenplay was so clever. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. I can't wait to see it get made. Brilliant, just brilliant. The characters jump off the page. I've had that same conversation myself."
All of those are quotes from emails over the years. I also got lots of notes that were useful. This scene isn't working, maybe you should change this or that.
I have news for you, awfully mean person, you can't make me quit!!!
You are not allowed to ruin my day. Your vicious attack says way more about you. You were charged to give feedback to an author and you gave cruelty instead of constructive criticism. You have failed to effectively perform in the precious job with which you were entrusted. You don't have to like my work, in fact, I'm cool with not everyone liking my work, but you don't get to make me out to be a talentless hack because I'm not, and I never will be. When your words enter my head, I will vanquish them with the sheer joy I gave others with my work.
Inane and insipid? I don't think so. Genius. Brilliant. Clever. Those words will be more powerful than yours.
You don't get to ruin me. Only I can ruin myself, and I don't give you that power. I will survive. I will flourish and success will be my comfort.
I'm not sure what the lesson is here, other than perseverance and a strong self belief. I'm not sure why I had to suffer this particular indignity, but I'm sure there is a reason. In spite of what you say, I still believe in me. I don't wish ill for you. You are building your own karmic prison with your ill will. In fact, I wish you the best. I hope you learn how to do this better and that you improve with your feedback. But you picked the wrong person to discourage. You'll have to hit me harder than that if you want to knock me down. And don't ever expect me to not get back up again.
I am filled with gratitude for everyone that shared their words of encouragement with me. You got me through this dark day. Thank you for being honest and kind, so I could drown out the hate.