I wrote before about drawing inspiration from creativity. Another healthy habit for the creative is to develop a sense of appreciation for the creative, to not only have an eye for signs of creativity, but to celebrate it when you find it.
There’s a tendency shared by creatives and non-creatives alike: the temptation to be critical of other creatives. I’ve found it’s very easy to do. Not long ago, I saw some friends watching a movie trailer on one of their phones. I stopped to watch as well, thinking I was seeing the trailer for an upcoming big-budget comedy. I immediately became critical in my mind, quick to judge how well I thought it would do and whether it would actually be very funny. Thankfully, I didn’t say much, because I soon found out one of the two people I was standing next to had actually directed the movie.
Realizing my error, I soon felt ashamed of my quick and negative assessment. In truth, it was pretty impressive for something done on a small budget. After all, it had tricked me into thinking it was soon to come out in major theaters. This is a feat in itself as low-budget movies are usually very easy to identify. But even then, I recognize I have a mindset that as long as something is big budget, it’s fair game for mockery. This is incredibly hypocritical of me, as I’ve actually worked on more than a few big budget projects, some more successful than others. Every project, no matter how big, was made by the work of many, many individuals, some who are both talented and hard workers.
Here’s what I’m getting at: it is much easier to critique creative works than it is to affirm them, to find the good parts. Pointing out what we see as wrong is a natural human tendency. Our eyes are trained to immediately recognize when something is off. They even made a game about it on Sesame Street with “which of these things is not like the other.” A critical mindset is the easier go-to because it takes more effort and attention to point out when something is right and even go so far as to compliment to the person or people responsible.
Often, we take things done well for granted. As the adage goes, when the job’s done well, no one notices, but when you screw up, all eyes are on you (it’s something like that anyhow). There are so many creative processes all around us running smoothly that we hardly take a moment to recognize. Waste management for instance, just think about it—or maybe it’s better you don’t. How about the way your car works (most of the time at least) or how easy it’s become to find a new restaurant or have food delivered straight to you in short order? That’s not even getting into the arts themselves and how much we have available through digital media.
Is there a place for criticism? For sure. Like Ecclesiastes 3:3 states, there’s a time to tear down and a time to build. Criticism helps us improve. But I think we’re more prone to one than the other. Like kids with building blocks—it’s easier to knock down a tower than fortify it. We can even be our own worst critics, the first to knock our own constructs down before someone else can appreciate them.
My advice? Before you are quick tear down, either your own work or someone else’s, instead see what you can build up.
Hey Creatives, which are you more prone toward, criticism or affirmation? Let us know in the comments below.