This week I took on an artistic challenge, completing a piece of work that intimidated me. Despite the intimidation, I wanted to test myself and grow, but as this piece was being made for someone else, I also wanted it to be good. And after several long and focused hours, I finished the piece and was so satisfied, not only with the result but also with the process.
You know what’s coming next, right? Upon receiving it, the recipient gave the piece a lukewarm, almost polite, endorsement… and only after a criticism was made of it, and only after I asked if it was liked.
My enthusiasm for my work did not match the response I imagined or expected for the piece. Sucker punch to the gut! But I’d worked so hard. But I’d taken a risk. But I was so proud of myself. And in a few short minutes, all of that good feeling I had about my creation went out the window!
You’ve likely experienced a situation similar to this, too. An idea you’ve worked on all night that you present with excitement at a meeting the next morning is given an “it’s okay but what else have you got”. A new recipe you laboured over for a special meal is left half-eaten on one of the guest’s plates. A birthday card that you made is received with the same polite indifference as the store-bought ones. Something you created that you put love into and lots of extra effort doesn’t get you the same love back. And worse, you get the dreaded Lukewarm response which feels like nothingness.
Apathetic responses to your art and ideas can often be Kryptonite for your creative impulses. And can make you want to stop. So, what to do?
These practices have helped me:
Rewind the time machine and revisit the experience of making the piece. What did I learn? What skill am I proud of developing? What do I want to keep on doing? Then decide on the next related challenge right away.
Surface and identify the feelings. Say hello, get to know them, and then show them the back door. Know that they’ll likely come back again, but the next time they show up won’t be so gutting.
Get back to work immediately. And once I’ve started on something new, I can briefly (and I mean, briefly!) replay any feedback I received from the previous piece with more objectivity/less emotional power – anything I may want to change or incorporate? Would it make my art or the process better? If so or if not, keep creating.
The worst thing I’ve done? Went to others seeking a contrary positive opinion of the work. Posted the piece everywhere to see how many “likes” and “comments” I could get. Showed everyone the photo version on my phone. Tried to justify the short-sightedness of the recipient as a one-off. Basically, I fed the Needy Beast. In the end, this did nothing for my creative confidence. It was like the useless tub-of-ice-cream-fix for a broken heart.
Your response to feedback is your choice, and choosing on the side of honouring your creative work, being self-aware of your Kryptonite, and getting back to work right away might help you overcome the dreaded Lukewarm’s hold over the Needy Beast.