Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some more thoughts on criticism

If you've read my About page -- and you totally should if you haven't -- you might have seen the last paragraph or two, which briefly outlines my feelings toward criticism. For those of you who haven't, it says this:
Is this more suited to a blog post? Maybe, but I think it's important enough to mention here. In short: There is no improvement without criticism. Part of being a pro is knowing what advice to take and what advice to ignore. When I'm being paid to produce content, there's a lot more of the former than the latter.
Having worked in many collaborative environments, I've seen plenty of hot-shot freelancers who balk at the idea of rewrites and approach re-dos in general as a pain or problem to deal with. That, in my opinion, is a poisonous attitude to have in any field...
And then I go on to brag about myself. You'll notice this is not an uncommon thing.

Inflated ego aside, however, the topic of criticism (and the way people take it) is very important to me. As a dude with a liberal arts degree, I've spent an insane amount of time in workshops. It's pretty much the same thing no matter what sort of art you produce. The more subjective your area of study, the more time people get to spend discussing their thoughts on what you've created. If there's no right answer, after all, everyone's opinion is equally valid.

Everyone's except yours, that is.

Why do I say this? Because no matter how harsh the critique you're receiving may be, no matter how obvious it is the dude offering it wants nothing more than to impress the professor with his brilliant critical skills, you're going to come off as the bigger jerk the second you start taking your work so seriously you feel the need to defend it against the opinion.

Take a second and watch this video.

 I wouldn't presume to know the situation behind the girl's outburst, but I do know she's a Z-grade internet celeb simply because she took her work too seriously, and it led her to the dark side. That's not melodrama or an outdated Star Wars reference, either: I firmly believe that, until you've reached some serious level of success with your work, the worst thing you can do is care about it to a point where that kind of reaction is the right thing to do in your head.

What does it matter? To some degree, everything we create is for other people, assuming we go out of our way to show it to others. Those people may or may not be able to take the work home with them when the critique's over; either way, it becomes theirs the moment you voluntary offer it up.

Creating anything comes down to observation and practice. The girl in the video obviously has some talent, which means she has taste, which means she has the skill needed to look at something and say "this is good/bad because X and Y." Passively or actively, inwardly or outwardly, she consumes and critiques media, too. Reacting like that doesn't just show how immature she is, despite her talent with a paintbrush -- it demonstrates a belief that, on some level, her work isn't deserving of the exact same thing she does to other peoples' stuff.

That's a fairly arrogant attitude to have about one's work, don't you think?

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