Judging Your Own Work

Judging Your Own Work - Brian McDonald

By award-winning writer and director Brian McDonald
Excerpted from Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate

 

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
– Thomas Mann

Don’t write for other writers. People are drawn to writing for different reasons and many people do it to seem smart. If you have a good first act, most will never recognize it, because they’re not really clear on what a first act does. They know nothing of construction, but will turn their noses up at the idea of it anyway. The less they know about it the more they will object to it.

The one thing I have noticed about people who are exceptional in their creative work is that they are always trying to get better. That’s how they got good in the first place. These people judge themselves against the best work. They aim for the top.

Just worry about the craft and the art will take care of itself.

The term self-expression has had a harmful impact on storytellers. Stories are not about the storyteller. If your focus is on yourself, then it is not on what is best for your story.

Learn to look at your work as if it isn’t your work. Be as hard on yourself as you would anyone else.

Learn from the masters. Figure out how they did what they did, why it worked, and apply it.

Don’t be fooled by flash-in-the-pan successes and don’t try to imitate what is new and novel. If someone comes along and does something different, such as telling a story backwards, or out of sequence, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the way things are done from now on. How many backward movies do you want to see?

Respect your audience. It’s not their job to “get it”; it’s your job to communicate it to them.

Understand that you are only as good as you are today, and don’t beat yourself up. You’ll get better.

Brian McDonald is an award-winning writer and director. He is also a sought after instructor and consultant, having taught his story structure seminar at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s ILM. He is the author Invisible InkThe Golden Theme and Ink Spots. You can hear Brian discuss his creative process on the 20/20 Podcast and follow Brian on Twitter.


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3 Comments

  1. Christine Bian
    5 September 2014 / 3:44 am

    Wisdom! ;o) Great post Brian – its been a while since I’ve caught up with you but thank you so much for posting this. Couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I am struggling to gain a foothold at my new job and its good to remind myself not to beat myself up! *Deep breaths*! Your posts are always inspiring, thank you Brian!

  2. diana
    5 September 2014 / 5:01 am

    The term self-expression has had a harmful impact on storytellers. Stories are not about the storyteller. If your focus is on yourself, then it is not on what is best for your story.This is key to getting out of your own way!

  3. Glenn Clark
    5 September 2014 / 8:20 am

    Great post! I’ve known a few writers who failed in one or another of these ways, and got nowhere as a result.

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