How to create without fear, in a world full of critics
by Jim Connolly
The fear of criticism is one of the major blocks to creativity. In this article, I am going to share an effective way to handle fear. I will also show you how to stop fear from getting in the way of your art or work.
You can’t avoid criticism
Even if you do nothing, people will criticise you for being lazy!
The moment you create anything, it’s there to be praised and criticised. For example, in addition to writing for this website, I also write a blog. The blog is pretty popular and has attracted over 20 thousand comments. Because blogs allow readers to comment on everything you write, I get comments from people who love what I do and a small number of comments from those who question it or criticise it. That criticism is also very public, as all my readers get to see it.
Whatever you create, it will be criticised. If you choose to play it safe and put generic work out there, it will attract less criticism, but it will be largely ignored – making it pointless. So, those of us committed to expressing our creativity need to figure out how we are going to deal with the fear of criticism.
Do we shield ourselves from criticism or do we learn to face it? Let’s look at those options.
Seth Godin and cocooning
Criticism has always existed, but not on the level that exists today. Just 20 years ago, a fearful author could cocoon themselves from negative feedback, by refusing to read the reviews of their book. Today, it’s a lot harder for people who are fearful of criticism, to cocoon themselves. However, it is possible.
Here’s the best example I have seen. It’s from the business author, Seth Godin. Now, Seth could be a fearless writer for all I know, however, his approach cocoons him from criticism.
Here are just a few of the things he has done:
- Banning his readers from commenting on his blog. As a result, Seth is now cocooned from criticism on his most visible platform, his blog. In addition, his readers can no longer see others criticise him or question his work.
- Shielding himself from feedback on social networks. He has social networking accounts, but doesn’t speak to anyone. Instead, the accounts are fully automated and just send out links to his latest work.
- Seth has even cocooned himself with email. Every email he sends comes with a warning that the content must not be made public. So, if you email him and get a response, you can’t publicly criticise it or question it. His email has a readership of just one person – you.
That approach means Seth can be controversial or say something that confronts a popular viewpoint, without fear – because he has blocked people from confronting him, where he and his readers will see it. Seth’s approach shields him extremely well and is an alternative for others, who prefer to avoid criticism rather than deal with their fear.
Alternatively, we can deal with the fear
So, as Seth’s example shows, it is possible (to a degree) to shield ourselves from our fear of criticism. However, I don’t believe that it’s the best way to deal with our fears. It’s like taking painkillers in response to toothache, rather than having the dental work done. The underlying problem still exists. The fear is still there and it will negatively impact the quality / uniqueness of our work.
Dealing with fear
In my experience, you have to look fear in the face and just do it! Then do it again and again and again…
I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
As a boxer, I was fearful before each fight, but with every fight I had, the fear became less and less. Soon there was just enough fear to stop me being careless. As a blogger, I was fearful of what people might say when I published my initial blog posts, but with every new post, the fear became less and soon disappeared.
Recognise fear for what it is
Fear is an essential element of creating the kind of art, which makes a difference. In fact, if you are working on a project and you feel that tingle of fear, it’s almost always a sign that you’re about to create something special.