Friday, August 20, 2010

On giving feedback

This quote by Paul Czege, author of My Life With Master, contains a nugget of such concentrated wisdom that I wanted to share it all with you. Let's discuss feedback:

Many years ago, years before I ever found my creative medium in RPG design, I dated a quite intelligent woman. I would show her my fictions and nonfictions and tell her about my ideas. And she would provide constructive criticism, upon which I could base improvements. Because, of course, the world ignores works which aren't excellent. That, or it rides roughshod upon them with cruel hooves.

There is a great deal of generally accepted wisdom about the value of constructive criticism that I now believe is bullshit. The institution of "constructive criticism" in creative communities is born of anxious, self-serving neuroticism and white-knuckled paternalism.

Danielle taught me that I need none of it. It does nothing but keep me from wielding the full force of my creative powers. What I need is feedback that puts energy into my efforts. What I need is feedback that helps me see the full elephant, to understand the meaning of the whole beast that has yet only a crude shape under my mortal hands. I am already scrutinous and critical enough of my creative efforts. What I need is feedback that strips away the bullshit that's holding me back, empowers and armors me against the certain doubts and contrary notions of others, and gives me energy and momentum.

Look at this game you have, find the love you have for it, and instead of criticism give it the feedback it really needs.

The keys, for me, is 'feedback that puts energy into my efforts' and 'feedback that helps me understand the meaning' of the thing I've created: the implications I haven't drawn out and what it can potentially become.

There's an uneasy course to navigate here, between telling someone what you would do with their idea vs. telling them what you think their idea could be, but done well you can be a valuable member of a creator's support team.

There are a couple of other relevant posts to check out on this topic:

  + Seth Godin uses his graph-fu to explain the value of the green dot (someone who's cheering us on, showing how great it will be when we finish and share our creations with our audience)

  + Alex Epstein talks about great feedback here. He emphasises the importance of developing your own 'giving feedback' skills.

So I open the floor to you. Tips for giving good feedback? What sort of feedback do you prefer? Do these quotes and articles strike something in you like they did for me?
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