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B&N Week 123: Different Types of Feedback

| April 30, 2013

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It’s a HOT Tuesday in Tucson! I moved over the weekend, I’m still not settled, but I couldn’t wait to get back here to you! It’s been a full past few days for me, and I’m looking forward to slowing down a tad, but nothing was going to keep me from you.

Now, I know we were talking about lettering the past few weeks, but not this week. We’ll return to lettering next week, I promise. There’s still a lot to go over on that topic, but since I’m still exhausted, I thought this would be a nice break.

What I want to talk about this weeks are the different types of feedback you can receive as a creator, and how all of it is helpful, but some feedback is more helpful than others.

Feedback is necessary in everything you do. Not just as a creator, but in your everyday life as well. Feedback will keep you safe, tell you if you’re doing or have done a good job, or let you know how another person feels. It’s about what you’ve done, and how it impacts others. When you decided to become a creator, feedback became something that you both craved and dreaded.

The different types of feedback are simple. You have the critical/analytical and the emotional. Everything else falls into one of these two categories, and how it’s put to you as well as how you receive it will make all the difference in your creative endeavors.

I’m not the biggest fan of emotional feedback. While I want to know how you felt after consuming my piece, what I don’t want is an emotional response. Emotions are fluid, and are extremely difficult to describe. That difficulty does me no good as a creator.

What’s worse is the proverbial pat on the head from someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at. Give a script to someone who’s illiterate, or have a blind person describe a piece of art. Extreme examples, yes, but they illustrate a point: most of the people you’re asking for feedback from don’t know what they’re looking at. They’re just happy that you created something, something that was never in the world before, that it is completely and uniquely yours, and that you shared it with them. They’ll pat you on the head, say something like “Aw, shucks,” and then go around telling everyone that you made something.

They’re “parent proud,” and while that’s good, it had no place unless they understand what they’ve just seen. You might as well hang it on the fridge for all the good emotional feedback gets you.

Who gives you emotional feedback? Friends and family, of course. They love you and they don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they say the things and make the necessary noises to tell you that you’re good, you’re worthy, and darn it, people like you! They’re also who you run to when someone says a nasty truth about work you’ve submitted. They’ve got your back. “That editor is a jerk! You can do the job. Just don’t give up.”

Know who else is capable of giving emotional feedback? You, as a creator, after having received negative feedback. This feedback [read: lashing out] doesn’t do you any good at all, and it can also paint you in an unflattering or incorrect light.

I run a second column called The Proving Grounds, where myself and Steve Colle edit up to 10 pages of script. I’ve been running this for as long as I’ve been writing this column, and in all that time, I’ve only had one creator give feedback that was full of vitriol. It was interesting, and the writer was given some time to reflect on their words and stance before the comments went live. While the creator opted to not have the comments be seen, it was still an interesting time.

I’ve also seen some creators go the social media route when talking about their Proving Grounds experience. I try not to interact with negative comments, because then it turns into a fight. No one wins those. All it does is make everyone look bad.

Critical/analytical feedback is the kind of feedback you’re looking for, though. It’s where you get the most bang for your buck, and where you can learn the most about both your creation and yourself. There are problems with critical feedback, though, and it’s out of your hands.

The biggest, most rampant “problem” with it is that there aren’t many places on the internet that give it. There are some places where you can post either art or scripts, but getting a deep critical or analytical response is a crapshoot. Why is that? Well, that’s because of the second biggest “problem” with it.

To do it well takes a long time. Sure, you can glance at something and say whether or not you liked it. That’s easy. But to say why you liked or didn’t like something, then explain your position as well as give your thoughts as to how the creator could have done something better… That’s not a five minute thing. That can take half an hour or more. That’s to do it well. To do it “right.”

This is the reason why you don’t see many places doing comments and criticism that are more than just overviews. While they can be helpful, they’re not the in-depth analysis that many creators are hoping for when they post.

Next up is the lack of skilled creators willing to give a critique. Those creators are more than likely working on their own books or working on their own gigs, so they don’t have the time to give newer creators the benefit of their experience. This leaves newer creators in the hands of those that are barely more skilled than they are, so the learning curve can be pretty flat.

Finally, there is the ego. We cannot talk about critiquing and criticism without talking about the ego.

As creators, we’re all egotistical. It takes great ego to tell the world you have something to say, and that people should listen to you. I’m not just talking about writers, folks. I’m talking about every part of the creative team. It’s great hubris to say, “I made a comic, and you should read it.” That’s nothing but ego. We all go through this trouble because we want to be loved and adored by the world. Money follows that. It isn’t why we got into comics. It may help to keep us in comics, but it isn’t why we came here.

Your imagination came up with the idea. Your ego made you tell it to someone. Why? Because your ego now wants to be fed, and it’s fed on kind words from another. Someone who is not you. As creators, we’re just taking that to an extreme.

When someone likes what we’ve produced, we get the warm fuzzies. Our ego is stroked, and all is right with the world. When someone doesn’t like what we’ve done and is able to articulate as to why they didn’t like it, there are only two real responses that result: an aggressive take [fight], or a defensive explanation [flight].

Being aggressive doesn’t do you any good. It makes you look thin skinned. You put your story out there for the world, and the world is going to make a comment on it. Maybe not the Silent Majority, but definitely the Vocal Minority. If you’re aggressive, all it really shows is that you’re not yet ready for prime time. Going back to The Proving Grounds, there are no personal attacks made when we go over a script. We say what we liked and what we didn’t, why we didn’t, and give thoughts on how to improve the script. It’s all about the work presented. The one creator who responded with vitriol also made personal attacks towards me. There’s a difference.

It is not wrong to defend your work. It’s wrong to be aggressive about it, calling names, and basically throwing a tantrum in public. You’d be better served to say nothing at all. Don’t let your ego write checks that your budding career can’t cash.

Take any and all feedback you can get, and analyze it yourself. Check the emotional content, check who it is that is giving the feedback, and try to see your work through their eyes. Did they point out any weaknesses? Did they keep saying the same thing over and over again? Did you send/post the most polished work that you could? If you did, good for you! Go back to the drawing board, taking on the feedback, and try to make the next piece that much stronger.

If, however, you submitted something you knew was flawed, you should still take on the feedback, but don’t be upset if what you got in feedback isn’t exactly what you wanted. I’ve seen creators say they knew their post/submission had this problem or that, but they wanted people to go over it anyway…and then got upset when the same thing kept getting mentioned over and over again, which was the problem they already knew about.

Don’t do that.

Whenever you post something or send in a submission for publication or whatever it is you want to do, you should always be prepared for feedback. It may not be something that you want to hear, but it may be something that needs to be said to you. Consider the source, and consider what’s being addressed.

That’s all I have for this week. Next week, back to lettering!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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