Who Is It For?
It feels good to be well received.
That buzz you get when everyone raves about how amazing your work is, is quite a high. And an addictive one.
So it’s pretty natural to look for positive assurance when we do (and deliver) our work. To get that extra bolt of reinforcement. To be sure that what we’re doing is worthwhile.
The thing we have to be wary of, is who we listen to, and whose feedback we value and imbibe.
The starting point, of course, is you. It’s your voice that starts and stops this entire process. It’s your vision, your ideas, your inspiration.
But beyond that, there are three other sets of voices.
There are those we do the work for, those who analyze the space we operate in, and those outside of those two groups. Or put another way, your audience (your customer), the critics (or the “experts”) and that part of the general public that isn’t your audience.
The only group that matters is the first one. Your audience is who you do it for and it only matters that you meet their needs. Their feedback will be clear in the acceptance of the work you do.
By definition, if that happens, there will be others that are outside the scope of your audience and they won’t accept it, or they’ll have critical words for your output. It doesn’t matter. Because you didn’t make it for them. Sure, it’d be nice to have their acceptance but that’s just a nice to have, not a must have. Because you didn’t make it for them.
Clearest of all, though, is the fact that the critics matter the least. Yes, they oversee the industry. Yes, they monitor the market. But unless you made it for them (which would be pretty sad), they don’t matter. Certainly, listen to what they have to say. But then make your own judgement as to whether their arguments have validity. Take what helps, ignore what doesn’t. Just stay true to your vision and who you’re doing this for.
Consider a few historical examples:
Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement received very mixed reviews with the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies stating that “it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns”.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor was panned with the comment that it put “the patience of the audience to a severe trial…”
Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Vertigo, received plenty of negative reviews when it was released.
In the more contemporary music world, Led Zeppelin was constantly criticized for their music while at the same time, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was considered derivative of Led Zeppelin!
The list goes on and on and on...
Should they have stopped working on their craft based on what their critics said? Should they have listened to the experts?
Or should they have listened to themselves, to their inner voice, to their desire to serve their audience?
Look, I get it. The allure of acceptance from all and sundry is quite lovely. It’s intoxicating. But it’s a narcotic.
Don’t get pulled in. Don’t take it straight to heart - the good or the bad. Accept it for what it is. Then put it to one side and just get on with your work.
It’s difficult at first, but it’s necessary.