Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Give and Receive Notes, Finale: Be Strategic

So we’ve reached the end, but all we’ve talked about is how to give notes, and not how to receive them. One reason for this, of course, is that you don’t have much choice about the latter: you just say thanks, read them, and weep.

The real question is, how do you handle notes that don’t have the level of sensitivity and specificity that we’ve discussed here?

The answer is simple: you just reverse-engineer this process. The notes you get might not follow those steps, but treat them as if they did:
  1. Happily forgive and filter out note-giver’s emotion.
  2. Happily forgive and filter out any less-than-charitable assumptions the note-giver made.
  3. Ignore any references to gurus or rules or the market, just treat these notes as one person’s individual opinion, which is what they are.
  4. On your first read-through, skim over everything but the praise and assure yourself that the note-giver isn’t rejecting you or your project outright. Once you accept that, then go back, read the whole thing and take their criticism seriously.
  5. Categorize the criticisms and evaluate what this critique has to say about each of your separate skills.
Whatever you do, even if you found the notes infuriating, thank the note-giver profusely and ask for the chance to offer up your own good, strong, sensitive notes for the note-giver’s current project. Remember: any set of unpaid notes is a huge favor, and you now owe one in return. (If you don’t like the way they gave the notes, the only good way to let them know is to set a better example in the notes you write for them!)

So what do you do now? Divide the notes into those that ring true to you and those that don’t, then go out and get a few more sets of notes on this draft. Any note that you don’t like, if you only got it once, you can safely put it aside for now. But no matter how much you disagree, if you get the same unwelcome note from more than one person, the Back to the Future rule kicks in, and you have to assume that millions will feel that way. Call those note-givers back and ask them to explain in more detail what you’re doing wrong.

And now, of course, you can feel free to move on to How to Re-Write and How to Revise!

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