Critiquing Critics Criticism

Last night I was reading a book, and I stumbled across a quote that sparked a thought. 

A critic is the man who knows the way, but can’t drive a car.

-Kenneth Tynan


Working in the world of creativity can bring about a lot of criticism. Sometimes this criticism can be helpful and other times it can be downright hurtful. It all depends on how you receive it. Some would say that others shouldn’t be so critical, or they should keep their opinions to themselves. I disagree. Even though it can be very hurtful to hear someone tear apart your idea or creation, you have the power to receive it in a positive way. 

I am not saying that you should take every criticism to heart and regard the opinion as certain or absolute truth. The real truth is that creativity is subjective. And this subjectivity can create pride, insecurity, doubt and so on. My thoughts on criticism are that the best things to do when someone criticizes your work, is to say “thank you”. Listen to what the person is saying, regardless of its accuracy or merit. You may never know when even the worst criticisms have the potential to change your ideas for the better. 

In the spirit of receiving criticism, you must be keenly aware of your criticizer. Make sure you determine what level of input you will truly let them have. How credible are they? How well do you know them? How much experience do they have in the field? All of these things factor in, when you are deciding how much stock to put into their advice. 

I have a few close friends, that have absolute authority to express likes and dislikes in my work. This group is very small, but I take their advice to heart. I trust them to have my best interests in mind, and I also know their life experiences and job experience that make them perfect mentors in my line of work. 

There is also a much larger circle of people that I give far less attention to when they criticize a work. I always listen and say “thank you” (even when I want to say otherwise) and I will spend a fair amount of time reflecting on what they have said, in order to ascertain any nuggets of truth they have stumbled upon. 

The idea is to not hear criticism, and immediately get defensive. Getting defensive in my experience usually escalates the level of pain associated with the criticism. Simply listening and saying thank you, seems to help everyone involved. Again, I have the power to take what someone has said, and either use it, learn from it, or throw it away mentally once the conversation is over. 

I feel that far too many creative people tend to react negatively to criticism. They tend to take every critique personally as if the critic was attacking them instead of their idea. Most times, people just want to help. They are not aiming at cutting your legs out, and making you feel inferior. If they are, you know what to do with their advice.  To me, taking criticism negatively and reacting defensively screams immaturity.  

A great idea can withstand criticism and a mature person can hear it.