The last thing you ever want to hear when you create something is a negative reaction. Sure, you steel yourself against the inevitability of the comments but nothing quite salves the sting once the arrows are loosed. Nothing really prepares you for what people will say. And as an ‘artist’ you have to get over yourself, you have to get over the fear of rejection or you can’t even attempt to do anything in the public. As much as you may fear that rejection though, without letting go of the work, whatever it is, it will have only half of the power it could.
Ah, but then there’s that pesky rejection thing again.
Sometimes though, you have to just say So What? Sure, it sucks to have people ridicule what you do, to tear it to shreds, but what is it about us that we hold the criticism in such high regard? Why on earth does the opinion of one person or a thousand change what I or anyone else does? I mean, sometimes you have to have the crazy courage to say to heck with it and just do what you do and hope someone out there gets it, and if they don’t, then so what? You do it for yourself, as much as anyone else and if the rest of the world doesn’t want it, then you still do it for yourself. Crap, how many artists have we lost because they listened to the critics? How many people just didn’t get their work in front of people who would appreciate it?
With me, I am always hyper-conscious of critics. I always have been. When someone tells me I paint like a grade-schooler it hurts because while I am a relatively new painter, I have been doing this for over three years now and to think that what I do can be so easily dismissed is hard to hear. Heck though, I paint what I paint. Good or bad. It’s what I do. You can tell me I am not a skilled painter, and I won’t argue, but to tell me I am not good is silly because there’s no substantive proof outside of academics and opinion to prove that. I won’t tell you I am a genius but, jeepers, I at least believe in what I am doing. I question it, but I do believe in it.
With the books it is never easy. The first book got hammered pretty good on Amazon but, in retrospect, the criticisms are pretty poor. Not always inaccurate, but poor. Tell me if a book is good, that’s what I want to hear as a reader, the rest is academic. With the new books that is what I care about – are the stories good? If you tell me the grammar is poor, or the structure is odd then that is what it is. Those are just not strong suits of mine. But it is the story that matters to me, and if the story isn’t good, that is where I will get upset. And maybe you will dig them or maybe you won’t. But heck, if you don’t, there is always someone else, right? And in the end, if no one likes what I do, well, I like it. Maybe that makes me pretty dumb, but you can’t really over-think believing in yourself, can you? You just sorta have to do it, or you’re doomed.
A dear friend just put their first book out and was dying to get some unbiased feedback (as we all are, though we all really just want to hear the good, the bad can be constructive but the veggies are rarely as delicious as the dessert, ya know?) but when they got it it wasn’t quite what they expected. They got their review, and it wasn’t particularly good, or kind. And it hurts, and it’s hard not to have it hurt. But I tell you what I told them – so what? How does their opinion effect what you do? If you were doing it for that person, well, ya failed, but big deal? Who says they are right? All you can do is follow your passion and see where it takes you. If there are things you can take from criticisms that can help you grow, then great, if not, then move on.
We all have so much talent and passion in us that you’d think we’d work harder to encourage it than we do. Sadly, we get too caught up in tearing the things people build down, and that’s a shame. And I am not above it at all (though, darn it, there are times when it is needed, so long as the critique is not directed at the person but at their work) but I have learned enough to know that what I think isn’t any more important than the person whose work I am judging. Both things have a right to exist, and that’s where it begins and ends. As a critic you cannot get it in your head that you are more important than anyone. You are but one voice, one opinion. And the artist cannot allow themselves to feel hurt when someone rejects their work because they are not their work, no matter how much time and passion they put into it. A monster may create pure beauty just as a saint may make something ugly. The work stands apart and always will.
No one ever has the right to tell you that whatever art you create is wrong. They may not think it’s any good but who cares? They are smelly and dumb and you’re a freakin’ genius! (At least that’s what you have to tell yourself, just don’t get a big head ok, it makes it hard to grocery shop, believe me on that one).