by Amy Azen
How to give ’em / How to take ’em
Advice to Newcomers
- The critic is not God. He/She is only attempting to help.
- Don’t take the stance that the critic knows everything & you know nothing. If you incorporate every single suggestion, you will wind up with a patchwork quilt whose authorship is unrecognizable. Eventually you will see the error of this indiscriminate acceptance and spend interminable time unraveling the mess.
- Worse, don’t assume you know everything and the critics know nothing. They are probably on to “something.” Good idea to listen, keep your ego out of it. If you disregard everything, you’re not learning anything.
- How do you select from the critiques what to add or eliminate? Be logical. Does the suggestion make sense? Gut instinct also works quite well.
- Critiques are painful because they appear to attack our self-identity and worth. The first urge is to kick in the face of the culprit and exit permanently. Avoid both options! We all benefit from criticism, it’s the way we grow and improve as playwrights. As you listen to critiques of your play and others, you will eventually internalize concepts as to what constitutes a good play. Your self-criticism as you write will be immeasurably sharpened.
- What appears as a hazing or brutal attack is only preparation for what will come in the real world when you mail your plays to theatres. You need to develop a tough skin because a form rejection letter (expect plenty) is more devastating in its silence than any words encountered here. You are learning not to be discouraged, to keep writing, revising where necessary, and to send out scripts!
- Lastly, you better love the writing. Challenging and difficult at times, the writing of plays should be a joy and stimulus to you. If it isn’t, get out of the field and do something else. For there are no guarantees that all or any of your plays will be produced.
Advice to Critics
- The critic is not God. Hey, take it easy on the newcomer. Even a new president gets a honeymoon.
- Be honest, but never brutal. Please note: Our conference room often resembles a boxing ring, with chairs & tables designating the perimeter. But no boxers punch it out in center ring. Verbal missiles, however, can deliver a fatal knockout, leaving the playwright reeling on the ropes. And with no opportunity to respond. He/She counters by exiting Playwrights Ink permanently; the scars last for years.
- Think Chinese: sweet and sour. Too much sweet is cloying, perhaps insincere; too much sour is entirely indigestible. A mix is best, noting high points, detailing problems, and suggesting avenues of exploration.
- So, you had a lousy day! Your boss gave you the deep-six, your spouse threw spaghetti in your face, and the Pekinese shat on your slippers. Whose fault is it, the playwright’s? You spend the evening chiseling away at his/her heart. Nice work, huh? Take a good look in the mirror. What kind of Homo sapiens is this? Punch the mug in the mirror.
- Try harder next time.