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how to handle creative criticism

7 Effective Ways to Deal with Creative Criticism

Are you searching for ways on how to handle creative criticism?

The biggest problem with creative work—whether professional or for personal enjoyment—is that it will always be subjective.

There’s no 100% right way or 100% wrong way to paint a picture, draw a design, or color a pattern. 

You can have great talent, excellent training, and years of experience, and yet, people will still be critical if their taste differs.

However, this doesn’t mean that their criticism is wrong or that it’s particularly right.

It’s up to you to decide what creative criticism means to you and if you want to accept it.

You can always learn from artistic criticism, even if the lesson is more about the person criticizing rather than your work.

That’s why it’s important to know how to handle feedback that isn’t always flattering.

If you can listen, take in what your critics say, and evaluate it, you can come out stronger and perhaps a better artist.

So, let’s go into the ways on how to handle creative criticism.

1. Be Positive

A positive demeanor when facing criticism is especially important if you’re a professional artist or work in a creative field. 

It would be best if you showed that you’re open and willing to hear what other people have to say.

Otherwise, you’ll get a reputation for being hard to work with.

It’s all about developing a thick skin and realizing that you will receive criticism whenever you put something creative out into the world. 

Try always to be positive and proud of your work but listen to other thoughts and ideas.

While your knee-jerk reaction may be one of anger or irritation, try not to show this.

Not all criticism is meant to insult or offend.

If you have a positive outlook and attitude—even if you fake it till you make it—people are more likely to feel that you’re approachable and want to work with you

2. Listen and Learn

To decide if the criticism is worth listening to, you need to listen to it.

It would help if you heard what the person has to say with an open mind and acknowledge what they say.

That way, you can internalize the message and examine it properly to see how it may help you grow in your creative field. 

If they are trying to put you down, you’re also behaving like the bigger person by listening to them and not rising to the bait.

It often helps to consider the source of the criticism and if they have experience in the field.

This way, you can decide whether their opinion has merit, or if it’s simply that—their opinion.

3. Be Respectful

Creative criticism can come from many different places.

It can be from the everyday person who views your work, from a friend or family member, or as an expert in the field.

It can also come from a place of genuinely wanting to help or from a place of wanting to put you down and make themselves feel better. 

Whatever the case, a professional should always listen to the person respectfully.

This is an excellent soft skill to have, and you can learn a lot from practicing it.  

If you start to get defensive or aggressive, you could lower yourself to their level if they’re coming from a bad place.

A simple “thank you, I appreciate your interest in my work” shows respect and disentangles you from the situation. 

4. Don’t Take It As A Personal Attack

Because creative work is so often a reflection of your true self, it can be difficult not to view criticism as a personal attack.

Your work can be an extension of your soul or psyche, making it hard to hear that it isn’t good or needs work to be better. 

It’s important to remember that creative work that’s in the public domain no longer belongs just to you.

It came from you but now belongs to everyone who sees it. That means they get to voice their opinions too.

There are, of course, times where criticisms of your work are actually criticisms of you.

This is where listening and being open to the comments will help you decipher which is a critique of your work and an insult intended to hurt rather than help.

5. Get Another Opinion

Once you’ve opened yourself up to the critique and have internalized the message, you may not be completely clear if the comment about your work was valid. 

In cases like this, look to other people whose opinions you trust to see what they think.

It’s best to ask someone who will give you an honest answer and not just what you want to hear.

Otherwise, you’ll just be talking round in circles in an echo chamber.

Friends and family may not be your best choice, so if possible, ask someone with professional experience in your art form. 

6. Be Open To Trying Something New

If you’ve received criticism about your work that you aren’t sure about, take a moment to try out what they said.

If that person based their opinion on experience, they may well help you improve your technique.

Take the information and experiment with other ways of doing the same or a similar piece.

If you were using pens for a design that could look better in pencil, for example, or using a photo printer and not mounting your images before displaying, give these ideas a try. 

If they don’t work for you, at least you put the effort in and can respond accordingly if the feedback arises in the future. 

7. Walk Away

As a last resort, if open dialogue about the criticism isn’t working, and the person isn’t backing down, you should shut down the interaction. 

Be polite, firm, and respectful, but don’t let someone only interested in seeing things done their way ruin how you feel about your creative work.

It’s best to walk away rather than get drawn into an altercation and potentially damaging your reputation.

Creative Work Is A Talking Point 

Remember, the purpose of art is to incite emotion and spark conversations.

You’re trying to shine a light up to the world and show it something.

If people aren’t talking about it—either saying positive or negative things—what was the point of the work you created?

It’s also important to remember that even the greatest artists throughout history have had their critics.

It’s all about personal opinion and personal reference points for understanding the creative work.

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