I’ve talked a lot about going out and getting feedback. What does it feel like to get it, and what are you supposed to do with it.
The truth is that feedback stings at first. You can feel full of righteous indignation for a bad comment or a dumb note. You can feel demoralized and uninspired by harsh feedback. In order to make things you need to test it. Traditionally, this is done internally. Your supervisors or colleagues will critique, approve, or give notes. Now, the audience and the world will often give plenty of unsolicited feedback as well.
Feedback Leads to Learning
To create the best stuff we need very short feedback loops. No one really knows what works, and what won’t. The mantra of the internet age is the business that can learn the fastest wins. They do this by a cycle of testing>learning>improving. Without critical feedback we can’t learn, without feedback we can’t improve.
Knowing what to Change
Knowing that feedback is the key to improving doesn’t help how feedback feels. Feedback still hurts. The better you know your own project will help decide what can change and what won’t. Isaiah and I had a hard decision to make. We had been working on a comic for two years. A mentor had advised us to test shorter projects. Our early readers were confused. Then we got the note that we could be alienating the audience we wanted to serve. Without much hesitation we regrouped and started again. We knew the project we wanted to make. It made no sense to continue a project that didn’t fit our values.
How to process feedback:
When I get note I sometimes need to take a walk outside to get it out of my blood. I sometimes stew in bad notes and frustration. It rarely helps. When I finally come around and do the work, make the change, it turns out better than I thought. Every note is chance to make the work better. It is often the things we overcome that are the most worth while. On our last comic project Isaiah and I tried something different. We both took equal share of drawing. We’d work on pages simultaneously. It was tricky for him, learning my style. So I would give a lot of notes and redraws. In one of our talks he mentioned how disheartening getting a page full of redraws could be. He tried so hard, but still it wasn’t quite there. I was a little upset at this, as it was never my intention to break him down. Then Isaiah said something fascinating. He said that when looking back those pages that he had to fix, it was worth it in the end. Slogging through it didn’t seem so bad after the fact and he was proud of what he did. It’s the bumps in the road. The missteps and failures are what teach us most. The sting of feedback is small compared to the satisfaction of overcoming it in the end.
That said, Isaiah and I will be releasing a short comic next Friday. It’s called Small Havens. We all know someone who is great but doesn’t believe it. Our story is about that. For the next year we will be working on very short comics. Each with a different story. We welcome your response and feedback.
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