Giving Feedback On Creative Projects

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1. The SKS Model

What should I stop doing?

What should I keep doing?

What should I start doing?

(no more than 3 bullet points under each)


2. The ‘Strictly Objective’ Critique Partner

I’m not sure there’s any such thing as ‘strictly objective’ when it comes to assessing creative work, but I think these questions might be good for coming somewhere close:

The SOCP doesn’t give you opinions about your story and how it could be improved. He or she doesn’t even point out weak areas. All he or she does is tell you what you have. The SOCP just finishes these sentences:

“The main conflict of your story is…”
“A basic summary of your story is…”
“At its core, your story is really about…”
“The major characters of your story are…”

Read more about this technique at YA Highway. Because sometimes it’s worth finding out if readers understand what you’re writing about let alone absorb its nuances, figurative language and its profound impact on society.


It can be argued that there are only four questions you need to ask yourself when learning something new.

  • What have you done?
  • Why?
  • What might you do differently next time?
  • What must you do now?

These same questions can be applied to your own creative projects.


In his book Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky explains that Walt Disney was a very enthusiastic creative person, but he knew how to put his abundance of wacky ideas to the test. Making use of Disney’s technique might be helpful at the idea generation stage of a project, though I can see potential for it to be used at later stages, too. As Belksy recounts it, Disney made use of three different rooms. Of course, Disney had the luxury of lots of actual rooms. The rooms we use may be metaphorical instead:

ROOM ONE: Brainstorming

  • Rampant idea generation allowed
  • No restraints
  • No doubts expressed

ROOM TWO: Aggregation

  • Crazy ideas aggregated
  • Storyboard produced
  • General sketches of characters

ROOM THREE: ‘The Sweat Box’

  • The project is critically reviewed.
  • Entire creative team is involved.
  • Criticism is never directed at one person, since the project has already been changed up in the process of aggregation.
While it’s not at all uncommon to make use of the brainstorming session followed by a critical analysis, I think it’s important to implement step two. This may make the difference between a successful project and an unsuccessful; between validated team members and those who feel resentful after their ideas are immediately scuppered.

Also Worth A Thought:

Do you get ‘annual performance’ reviews? Are they useful to you?

After believing in annual reviews for most of my career, I don’t really believe in them anymore. Not timely enough, demoralizing in general (everyone thinks they’re above average), and just a hell of a lot of work for everyone.

– from a Quora comment thread answering the question: ‘How should startups handle performance reviews?’

Do you know of any other models for giving and receiving critique? Do you think critique is always necessary?


You won’t benefit from anonymous criticism from Seth Godin

8 Urban Myths To Squelch During Story Critiques from PV from Steve Laube

Various ideas for critiquing a work of art