feedback fear

the face that started it all

the face that started it all

I won’t ask for feedback on my creative projects, in spite of feeling that I really should.

I am afraid.

I don’t think I’ve got a clear idea of what it is I want to say about the world and my experience of it. And if I give someone else a chance to offer an opinion, I know I’m a wimp, and I’ll change my work to meet their expectations. I’ll lose the opportunity to express myself because I’m not strong enough to resist good intentions.

And yet, I remember Nick’s delight at a small figure prodding me into creating three more versions. I loved the feeling of winning his approval. I also took courage from his understanding of what I enjoyed about that particular creature. I was astonished and pleased by its liveliness, and he got that.

In those early days of exploring clay sculpting, if I’d invited comments from someone who hadn’t liked what I was doing, I’m sure I would have given up. In the face of indifference, I’m barely able to keep on with any project, but given out and out criticism, I fold. All my internal negativity floods out. “See, “ I hear myself shouting, “I told you you couldn’t do it,“ and I slink away, red-faced that I even dared to try.

If I get things actually finished, it’s easier to show them to others. But even so, it’s scary when I don’t know if I’m going to receive helpful insights or flat rejection. It takes an unshakeable belief in yourself to withstand an “I just don’t like it,”  Perhaps even more fortitude to hear “What if you just changed this part? My friends and I would buy something like that.”

Because ultimately, that’s where I seem to be stuck. If someone would pay for what I’ve created, I would think it had value. If it goes unsold, then no matter how much I liked it, it feels like it just wasn’t good enough.

I hate that I do this to myself. I see, and hear, and enjoy all manner of beautiful things that do not cost money. When I’m in my right mind, I remember that, and can enjoy whatever I’m doing. So for me, a crucial part of my creative process is trying to stay in my right mind. I try never to think “will it sell?” I focus on shaping the clay, stroke by stroke. I watch for signs of where it wants to go. I feel its texture and learn simple but for me, amazing things.

And I put off the outside world and its judgement for as long as I can.


#creativeprocess, #feedback, #fear, #opinions, #clay sculpting, #criticism, #sellingart


longing to be heard

I wonder why I am so convinced that a tree makes noise if it falls in a forest even though no one might be there to hear. On the other hand, if I say something out loud, in words or music, and no one reads or listens, I am not nearly so convinced.

Expression of my own ideas in writing or music does bring a kind of satisfaction and release. It’s afterwards, once the idea exists outside my mind, that I start to worry about its validity. If no one else hears my communication in my lifetime, I fret, feeling the job is only half done. I believe that I need some sort of feedback, otherwise there’s no point. The best is a “well done” comment, or even a “not bad”, although a “what is this piece of s***” may be better than silence. But is this true?

There are only so many times I can be happy with my partner saying “That’s nice”, so I keep looking for other listeners and readers. That’s not easy given all the voices clamouring for attention these days. But maybe, maybe struggling to find an audience is not the goal. After all, the tree certainly doesn’t look for outside permission to keep growing, or, when it’s time, to fall. So why do I think spectators are required before I set pen to paper?

My own experience, my own judgement is not enough, and why? Because all my life I have been judged by others. Parents, teachers, employers, conductors, leaders, have all taught me I don’t know enough to know when I have done well, and unfortunately I have believed them. Maybe, yes, definitely, at one time it was true. But I have learned and grown, yet no one has warned me that the moment would come when I should stand on my own and say yes, this has value, no matter what anyone else might think. To continue with the tree metaphor, this may not be the best red spruce ever grown between 1990 and 1991 in this particular corner of Canada, but it’s a nice tree. It deserves its life.

I realize that as part of a civilization that produces so much, I rely on taste leaders to save me from wasting precious minutes on things I know I won’t enjoy. I don’t feel I’m dissing the books or music I haven’t absorbed. But I have chosen not to become an audience for those creators. So where does that leave me, a creator, looking for an audience?

It’s extraordinarily tough to find an audience these days when there is such an overwhelming abundance of creations. So I go back to my tree. Do I really, really need an audience? If there is no audience would I stop creating?

The quick answer is no. I write words and music initially for myself, for the pleasure it brings.

But why, eventually, does that seem not enough? Why do I feel such a kick, such a lightness of heart and motivation to repeat, when I hear from some like-minded soul that because of my creation we’ve shared a connection? And once I’ve experienced that joy, I crave it again and again?

#audience #feedback #tree falls in a forest