Who are you trying to impress? Cast aside the critics!

The creative process is never easy.  I’m not just talking essays.  Even the stuff you want to create is an uphill struggle.

Even a blog post, like this, is liable to bring a person down on their knees.  I want to make something, but I also want it to have meaning, value and purpose.  A lot of thought needs to go into the work.

photo by alicepopkorn

photo by alicepopkorn

How much care and attention should you give to a job before it’s presentable to anyone else?

Notice that I use the word ‘presentable’.  This isn’t about perfectionism.  I’m looking more at the self-conscious concerns that build up as soon as you start writing our own script.  You’re don’t know what direction this will take.  It’s exciting.  It’s interesting.  It frees you up to do what you want.

And that’s scary.

All at once you feel an awareness of a critical public watching your every move, preparing to pounce on every weakness.  All eyes are on you.  The critical public are waiting for you to slip up.

Most of that critical public exists only in the creator’s head.  Unfortunately, that’s the worst place the critics can exist!  It only serves to make the real-world critics seem even more threatening.

Critics, wherever they exist, should be no threat.  You owe it to yourself to push past the critics and get on with living:

“Sure, criticism hurts.
But a life unlived hurts more.” – Jonathan Fields

All too often, criticism is a trap.  Let’s say you’re performing something for 20 people.  19 of those people are satisfied with what you’re doing.  Only one person questions your performance and digs in to what they saw.

How do you react?  Are you happy that 19 people appreciated what you did, or do you focus on the one critic?  Or…or…do you stick to appreciating your own creative process in your own way?  You don’t have to focus on any of the 20 people.

Nevertheless, many people would react to that one critic in the room.  It hurts and the comments may eat away at you for a while.  I’ve fallen into that trap before.  In the hugely connected and public world we now live in, we are acutely aware of our position under the spotlight. Just one comment can lead to doubt.

Whenever you doubt yourself, remember this: you are an individual with faults and failings, just like every individual.  If you can use criticism to improve your future efforts, fantastic!  But mere opinions that goes against your creative plans aren’t worth worrying about.

Artist Grayson Perry has an interesting take on the creative process:

“Being creative is all about being unself-conscious; being prepared to make a bit of a fool of myself. In my experience, embarrassment is not fatal.”

Robert McCrum analysed Perry’s words in The Guardian and makes an interesting point:

“If genuine originality is at stake, the artist will probably be in two minds about what he or she is up to, and unwilling to offer an easy account.”

Is it acceptable for us to make public mistakes or to step back from trying to impress everyone out of fear?  Will there really be any relevant and damaging repercussions if you suffer the odd embarrassment?

Try your best and it’s highly unlikely you’ll suffer any real damage in the process.  Creativity is random and subjective.  If you have a willingness to learn from all that you do, criticism should either be constructively helpful to you or words to ignore.

It’s impossible to know how to impress all the time.  The creative process is about enjoyment and discovery.  Creativity under stress isn’t creative at all.  Have you ever heard of restrictive creativity?  No, me neither.

12 comments

  1. Fantastic post and very true.

    So many people get caught up in the one out of 20 critics, when there are so many others cheering you on.

    Great work,

    Darren

  2. I have been caught up in that one critic too.
    When we like what we do, no matter how proud we are of it …sometimes are confidence can get a bit shaken. But you are right: Nothing ventured, nothing gained…And then again what’s important is to try things out, to answers challenge we or others set to ourselves.
    Like your take on this subject.
    Will definitely keep it in mind 😉

  3. …And you never know, you might get two voices of support! Good point about how one chooses to deal with / listen to a critic, indeed that there is a choice. As much as one can make a hash of something, a critic can too. I best stop there.

  4. I know I beg for constructive criticism from some of my friends and family because I want their views. But, it is truly up to me whether I accept their view or not. This is where we need to be ourselves and stand up for what we believe in. If we don’t we will be fake and be easily controlled by others.

  5. Cristina, Mark, Derek…Thanks for all your comments.

    Indeed, choices need to be personal even when listening to the views of others. Proper constructive criticism is best used in considering alternatives and improvements. The goal is to freely accept it as an ongoing build up of information. At this point I must decide as an individual which direction to take.

    Decisions are tough to make. But it’s more satisfying to choose your own path than to be guided by a critic’s words that may be no wiser than your own.

  6. Criticisms, especially non-constructive ones, can hurt like hell. However, it is up to the person criticized if he/she would use the criticism to either wallow in self-pity or treat it as a push forward to try and do better next time. As Ellen Degeneres wrote in her book My Point … “You learn that no matter how good you are, there are certain places you walk into and there’s a certain energy you cannot change. It’s [simply] like having Guns ‘N Roses open for Perry Como.”

  7. As someone who recently started blogging, I’ve been dealing with this issue of “impressing others” almost every day. There’s a constant fight going on when I sit down to write: The pressure to produce content for others, and the pressure to write authentically & express myself.

    I think you’re COMPLETELY right when you write: “Try your best and it’s highly unlikely you’ll suffer any real damage in the process. Creativity is random and subjective.”

    There’s really no such thing as the PERFECT or RIGHT way. In the end, it’s only YOUR OWN WAY that matters.

    Thanks for this!

    1. Thank you, Erica. Good luck with the writing…I hope it’s more an enjoyable process than a stressful one. It’s difficult enough getting your own words down, let alone saying what you think other people want to hear! 🙂

      Here’s to expressing yourself authentically!

Comments are closed.