How many times have I heard that my work was rejected for this or that competition, … I hear “you’re rejected”, instead of “your work is not selected”. It hurts and I take it too personally: I identify myself with my work, I AM my work. So I’m rejected, and not just my work. And when I’m rejected my inner critic is dancing: “I told you so they’d hate it!” “what were you thinking, sending your childish paintings to a gallery?!?”
And no gallery is interested in my work! Well, to be honest: I contacted one gallery that didn’t even take the time to answer my email so now I haven’t had the courage to try again… So now I’m organizing an exhibition in a friends office. If I don’t contact galleries, they can’t reject me, can they?
Doing an exhibition also makes me very nervous and anxious. Will the visitors like my work? Or will they think it’s ugly amateur’s work? How do you handle critics, so they wouldn’t damage your creative flow and your artistic activity? Critics are all feeding our inner critic, who will want to make you stop creating to protect yourself from criticism. Inside ourselves rejection hurts so much…
Last week I saw the interview of Tim Ferris on Marie TV. He’s a very successful author, and his books were rejected by a lot of editors, who sometimes wrote him nasty letters, not caring that there’s a human being on the other side reading it and getting hurt by nastiness… Every artist goes through that…
Attacks on creation, be it writings, music, drawings or paintings, are to be expected from those who lack the power to create. Creativity takes courage. It’s easier to shrug the shoulders and criticize then to take the pen or brush and try to create for yourselves.
Most big artists suffered from critics: Paul Gauguin (who after ten years of making art ended up killing himself), Michelangelo (who in the first place didn’t want to paint the Sistine Chapel out of fear of failure), Beethoven, Janis Joplin, Henri Rousseau,…
So how should I handle the critics so I don’t end up paralyzed by them? Most of the time I pay attention to concentrate on people who are celebrators, and not on the haters. Don’t discuss work you’re making with anybody at random. Chose carefully to whom you talk. Some people are real jealous trolls. Unfortunately even family or friends can be nasty. They give you so-called good advice “for your own good” because they don’t want to see you get hurt of fail. “it’s too risky”, “it’s too much work”, “you’ll lose your job/your home…”, and saying “this sounds hard but I just don’t want to see you suffer” etcetera. Or they hate what you’re doing because it reminds them of their own lost dreams. It’s easy to hate. Just pass too much time on Facebook and you’ll easily loose all your energy on reading the internet trolls. Anger is a catalyst and makes you exhausted and sick. It’ll take away your joy and spirit and it’ll make you stop creating. By the way, this is a paragraph inspired by Brené Brown’s new book “Braving the Wilderness”. A must read! Brown writes:
“While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.”
Every now and then, when my inner critic gets a too strong hold on me I grab Danny Gregory’s great book “Shut your monkey”.
Here’s some of his advice on how to beat your monkey inner critic:
- Fight the monkey by observing your inner dialogue
- Take yourself to coffee like you’d do with a good friend. Be kind to yourself. Take it as an opportunity for self-analysis and self-improvement.
- Most important: Work work work! Stop thinking, and instead: just do it! Grab pen/brush/pencil and get back to your creative work. “Any condemnation of a wok of art should only be responded to with more work. Forget swords and lawyers. Make your case with a brush, a pen, a song, a page in a book…” As you work, your inner voices will fall silent. It’ll get bored because it can’t distract you anymore.
- Don’t try to please everybody. “If you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody”. No work of art is passionately loved by everyone forever. Not even the Mona Lisa. Just start by pleasing yourself!
I advice you to read Danny’s book if you’re struggling with this a lot. He’s so inspiring.
Now let’s get back to work! 😊
Tell me in the comments below: are you struggling with criticism of with fear for criticism for the moment? And does it sometime prevent you from doing your work?