How to NOT Let Negative Feedback Stop You

Feedback” is a word that strikes dread in creative people the world over. It is our proverbial “Boo!” and it really can scare the shit out of us.

Most of us crave feedback. We want to know our work matters to someone other than ourselves. Don’t we?

And yet, too many of us share our work at the wrong time and with the wrong people. Doing this we tend to bring forth the words we dread the most, such as “You’re work sucks, I hate it — get a day job!”

It doesn’t matter what type of art you create there will be people who absolutely hate it and people who absolutely love it. There will be people who get it, people who don’t and those who are somewhere in the middle.

The worst feedback ever

Feedback can help us improve and become better artists (writers, singers, painters — whatever your art is), but it can also hurt and put us in a dark hole from which we may never return.

I want you to imagine the absolute worst someone could possibly say.

Go ahead — don’t hold back.

Got it? Now increase the volume in your head. Imagine the person screaming out his or her hatred at you.

Did you survive the onslaught? Good. It’s time to move forward.

If someone is willing to go to such lengths to get you to listen to his rant you must be on to something worthwhile. If you weren’t, then why would anyone make such a ruckus over it?

Art is subjective

Each person who views, reads or listens to your work will have an opinion based on his or her wants, needs, desires, interests, experiences and, of course, what he or she likes and dislikes.

If you create something original and different you automatically increase the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. This is absolutely normal.

In general, most people accept things the way they are and reflexively show strong resistance when an idea demonstrates possible change to the status quo.

The same thing can happen if you’re a previous unknown and come out of nowhere with something that gets a crazy amount of attention.

Jealousy can run rampant when someone seems to skip the normal, accepted steps it takes to get noticed. This might not apply to you today, but be forewarned because if you are creating art and sharing it online, then it could happen tomorrow or next Friday.

Rebecca Black praised by Simon Cowell

Why did the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black become such an international viral hit if so many people claimed to hate it and therefore it was so terrible?

Simon Cowell who wisely advised Rebecca not to “listen to anyone over the age of 18” called it “Brilliant!”

167 Million views on Youtube and no one liked it? Who’s fooling who?

If you’re a singer and you caught the attention of a producer as successful as Simon Cowell would you believe you created something worthwhile?

Ask the right people

We do need feedback to grow as artists, but the key is to ask for feedback from the right people when you are ready and not during the process.

What would have happened if Rebecca had received such feverish criticism while she was in the middle of recording “Friday”?

Maybe you or I, nor Simon Cowell would have ever heard of her.

If you were Rebecca Black would you listen to Simon Cowell, who has sold more than 300 million albums, or to the “haters” who were probably more filled with jealously than anything else?

And, to be honest, my feedback for “Friday” wouldn’t be all that helpful either, because it’s not really my thing, but for someone in that lane it may be the best thing since apple pie.

Tips for helpful feedback

1) Only ask for feedback when the work is ready. Feedback, regardless of what kind, can influence your creative process.

2) Do not ask the wrong people. If you ask someone who is resistant to the type of art you are presenting, then you will increase your chances for negative, unhelpful and counterproductive feedback.

3) Choose only a few people who you respect, who are qualified and open to the type of ideas you have. They should be honest and willing to give you feedback that might not be exactly what you want to hear, but have the goal of helping you shape your work into something great.

4) Ask for specifics and clear examples. Vague statements are unhelpful and can leave you lost as to what to do next.

5) It’s your work. Make the changes you feel comfortable with and then, let go.

Once your masterpiece is ready to be shared with the world it’s time to come to terms with the reality that there will be people who absolutely hate it, absolutely love it and those who are somewhere in the middle.

Keep moving forward

The good news is, you and I, we are always learning, improving and growing as artists.

We are not perfect and that’s okay. Just don’t let negative feedback stop you.

Your work matters. -

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— This has been a modified excerpt from my book “Writer’s Doubt: The #1 Enemy of Writing (And What You Can Do About It)