I was recently listening to an podcast interview with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of Confidence, where he said some interesting (and not often heard) things on the subject of his book. Among them was to listen to the opinions of others, because they’re often right. And that it’s okay to be a bit insecure, because it keeps you in a state of working harder. This led me to think about the topic of criticism and how it relates to an artist’s work.
First, let me completely honest. I hate being criticized in every way. It’s hard for me not to take it personally. Frankly, it feels like a punch to the gut. But I’ve learned to not react and not get defensive (though my record on this isn’t perfect) and simply listen, then let it digest. Why? Because it leads to improving my work and becoming a better writer. Not long ago, I worked with a director on rewriting a horror script. I learned more from him in just a few weeks than all the conversations I’ve had with agents and development executives, but the key was being open. At times, it was frustrating and painful, but we ended up with a better script and I learned a few things.
I don’t mean to say that all criticism is justified. Sometimes the person has an axe to grind or they want you to fit into their idea of who you should be. In addition, everyone has an opinion. And in the movie business, even more so. You really have to take it from where it’s coming from. But if 5 people tell you the ending of your script doesn’t work, you better listen. It may sting, but it’s worth it.
One last thing. I know a guy who’s dreamed of being an artist for decades. He’s put work into it, producing a record and writing a book. He may even have some raw talent. But because he’s so incapable of taking criticism, he’s stuck. And that’s a place an artist never wants to be.