Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Positive reinforcement

We talk a lot around these parts about having reliable people read your stuff and give you honest feedback. Don't let your mom give you notes and the like.

Last week I was really positive, but today I was kind of down because of some stuff you don't need to know about. And that had me thinking about the importance of positive reinforcement.

When we started out, we all sucked. That's true in anything, isn't it? The first time you got behind the wheel you probably sucked at driving, but you didn't think you did so you probably crashed a few times. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Anyway, your first screenplay was most likely garbage. And if you sent it out or showed it to anybody who knew anything about the industry, they rolled it out and took a big old crap all over it. And then you crawled back into your bed and wept.

Unless you have an unreasonably large ego like yours truly, you're going to lose faith in yourself. So you need somebody in your life who gives you nothing but positive feedback. Is this screenplay good? Absolutely. Am I gonna make a bazillion dollars one day as a screenwriter? Of course you will, dear. Do I look fat? Hell no.

Some of us have parents who don't get the whole screenwriting thing, but there are friends, lovers, teachers, homeless men we can get to throw some positive energy our way. So I say, as long as you have your gang telling you the truth, make sure somebody in your life picking out your Oscar dress no matter how horrible your screenplay is.

I've had some days where positive comments from you guys really made me feel like a non-failure, so thanks. And be excellent to each other and whatnot.


  1. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Yesterday my dad and I were talking about this principle of psychology that intermittent reinforcement is better than positive reinforcement. In other words, if all you're getting is positive reinforcement (i.e., everyone is buying your script), then as soon as that stops you'll quit much quicker than if you only get one piece of good feedback every so often.

    Just thought that was a nice corollary to this post.

  2. 1. My first screenplay was written on a long roll of butcher-paper I had taped to my walls. It was about guys on vacation, shooting their way out of Mexico.
    2. I am not done reading your script yet- rewriting and grades, sorry- but every page I read confirms what I thought. You are solid at this, you have a gift and you're smart. You don't need to worry about it- you belong in the game.

  3. Which begs the question -- when you win an Oscar, are you going to thank all the readers of your blog for our endless support?

  4. David, oh I would never advocate putting yourself in a bubble where you never heard negative comments. I mean that along with all the people who tell you the truth, there should be one person who believes in you no matter what.

    Vanilla, That sounds like a fun script. And thanks. No worries.

    Dave, I plan to forget all the little people as soon as I'm famous.

  5. I prefer honest positive feedback over positive reinforcement. But I don't want the negative feedback or reinforcement.


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