But to do that, you need good notes. And you’re not going to get good notes from your loved ones (who like you too much), or from your professors (who are paid to like you). You need notes from your peers, preferably from peers who are just peers, not close friends.
So what’s the best way to get good notes? If you develop a reputation as someone who gives good notes, then your peers will be happy to return the favor, so let’s figure out how to do that, starting with…
Part 1: Deal With Your Emotional Reaction First
This is a what most note-givers fail to do. We inject too much emotion into our notes because we’re unwilling to admit to those emotions, so the first step is to be very aware that all manuscripts cause emotional reactions in their early readers, for a variety of reasons. When you read a manuscript…
- You will feel insulted if it’s bad. “Why are you wasting my time with this half-ass crap??”
- You will feel frustrated if it’s so-so. “This is like reading the phone book!”
- You will feel manipulated if it’s blatantly emotional. “Stop telling me how to feel!”
- You will feel vulnerable if it’s subtly emotional. “This makes me really uncomfortable…”
- You will feel threatened if it’s too good. “Holy crap, who does this asshole think he is?”
Writers want to shock us, upset us, sadden us, anger us, goose us, derange us, etc. It’s disturbing enough when they succeed, but it can be excruciating when they fail. It’s as if the writer is poking you in the ribs over and over again saying, “Isn’t this awesome?” You just want to slap them down to make them stop.
But you don’t. You control yourself. You allow yourself to feel those feelings and then you keep them out of your notes. You remind yourself that, by reading their work, you invited them to poke you. Now you have to say, “Actually, there are better ways to poke me, and here’s how...”
Which brings us to step two…