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  • Writer's pictureTobi

Creativity and Negative Criticism: Listen or Ignore?

A woman stood in the road

Introduction: Needs more Honest Production

Like all creative people, my work has been met with the full spectrum of negative criticism from the very reasonable, “Not my kind of thing”, to the enigmatic, “Needs more honest production”.

Chapter 1: Listen or Ignore?

One of the most problematic and, paradoxically, important things for creative people is to know which criticism to listen to and which criticism to ignore. If we simply ignore everything, we risk missing the opportunity to learn. On the other hand, if we listen to everything, we will end up confused, stuck in a perpetual feedback loop of second-guessing ourselves.

Listen or Ignore: A Not Talking

Chapter 2: The Useful from the Useless

There are many ways to break down criticism, in order to separate the useful from the useless.

A woman stood before table of art and craft

Over the years, one way in which I have found it helpful to think about criticism, is as falling into two types. The first type says I don't like this, I'm going to listen, watch, or read something else. The second type says, I don't like this. Stop doing it.

Chapter 3: Personal Taste

Both types of criticism are, in fact, manifestations of personal taste, but with one fundamental distinction.

In the case of the first type, we have those who recognize their personal taste is just that, personal, and that the world is made up of many different flavors of personal taste. This type of criticism can be described as pluralistic in its view of the world.

A woman looking over her shoulder

In the case of the second type, we have those who fail to distinguish between their personal taste and facts, anything that differs from their taste is incorrect. This type of criticism can be described as absolutist in its view of the world.

Chapter 4: Pluralistic Vs Absolutist

The pluralistic criticism helps us to understand how people perceive our work. It can inform our judgment when determining which curators/audience to target. It provides useful context as we attempt to establish our position in the wider music scene.

A man and a woman deep in discussion

In stark contrast, the absolutist criticism is, in its nature, prohibitive. It will only serve to confuse us, by undermining our judgment. It will erode our sense of artistic identity, installing in its place, an ever-deepening state of creative paralysis.

Conclusion: Ignore the Gatekeepers

“Not my kind of thing”, falls into the pluralistic criticism. It helps me understand who my audience is and, just as importantly, who it is not. “Needs more honest production”, falls into the absolutist criticism. It presumes to gate-keep my creativity on the basis of nothing more than personal taste and should be ignored.

The next time your work is met with a negative criticism, I hope this will help you to decide whether you should listen or whether you should simply ignore it.

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