The word itself conjures the squealing sounds of an electric guitar grabbing your auditory works and holding them hostage until you’re ready to surrender. A little feedback can add some excitement and punch to what you are doing. Too much can have you on your knees begging for mercy.

I guess it’s human nature to take a pound of flesh from you if you actually create something and put it out into the world. Sometimes it’s a hostile review from someone who gave up a creative life or a Gordian knot of passive-aggressive comments from a competitor or just plain vitriol from someone found the work to be too “true to be good,” as Mr. Shaw once said.

Years ago I learned in a communication 101 class you cannot control someone else’s behavior, only your reaction to it. When you put a play up for discussion after a reading, an interesting turn of events occurs. If the writer is someone of note, people will say things that will bring attention to themselves to say, “I’m smart and I’m kissing up to you but not in a distasteful, overt way. Like me. Hire me. Bring me into your world.” If the writer is someone on an even or lesser level it becomes “wabbit season/duck season/shoot me now” until someone winds up with a bill blown to the back of his head.

I’m somewhere in the middle of these two places, leaning more towards the latter. The trick in receiving this is to remain open and not scream, “YOU IDIOTS, YOU UTTER IDIOTS! YOU WOULDN’T GET THE POINT IF IT WALKED UP TO YOU WEARING A SHIRT THAT SAID, ‘THE POINT’ AND INTRODUCED ITSELF!!”

Imagine if you gave birth after many months of being labor and 3 minutes after the umbilical chord has been cut and the after-birth hits the floor, people viewing through the windows (who are not related to you, by the way) begin telling you what’s wrong with your child. “The skin tone is off.” “Too many limbs.” “That boy should be a girl.” “It’s ok for your first one. Amateur.” “It would be more exciting with 3 anuses. At least that’s how I was taught in school to react to things.”

In the meantime, you just want some water and protein.

My buddy Chris pointed out years ago that I’m a glass-is-twice-as-big-as-it-needs-to-be kind of people. I go through swings where I’m very positive about things but then I also default to hurting myself before anyone else can. I rip out 4 pounds of flesh and scatter them like bread crumbs for the vultures to enjoy. I had a friend in grad school who did it more as milk ‘n’ cookies for Santa. “If I were you, I’d say I was weak in X, Y, and Z.” My way intensifies the pain, his kept it at bay. Neither is good or healthy.

I try to remain open to criticism. It’s a tricky balance to receive what will help you improve without being open to a place that saps you of your strength. I know some people who simply shut it all out. Or they argue people into changing their opinion. That doesn’t really help their play.

At the end of the day, you have to create what you would like. Not what you think others would like. Unless you’re given a huge pile of money and have to treat it like a job.

Onto another draft.