First responders have some of the most difficult jobs out there, but also the most important. Without those who are willing to rush into an emergency and bring people in immediate danger to safety, many more lives would be lost. I remember the many stories of brave souls during 9/11 who headed straight into the unstable debris of the recently collapsed towers to pull others from the wreckage. To be a first responder requires you be willing to constantly lay your own life on the line, without a second thought, in order to save someone else’s. Truth be told, they hardly get the recognition they deserve.
In its own way, though not quite so life-threatening, a response is a crucial element of creativity. A creative work can live or die based on the response it receives. I think of many great movies which flew under the radar and were only seen and appreciated by a few, relatively speaking. And then there are the movies which should have been great, had a huge following and much expectation but, opened to a largely negative response and poor numbers at the box office (why would someone put their office in a box anyways, seems odd to me).
All this to say creativity and response make for a two-sided coin:
Creativity demands a response, creativity is a response.
As creatives, we are both responders and in need of a response. Whether you realize it or not, your creative work is a response to something: an idea, a dream, a hardship, a unique experience, an insight, an outlook, etc. Whether internally or externally, what you produce is in reaction to something else—an effect from a cause.
On the flip side, we desire and require others to respond to our creative output. This is where things can get tricky as we often don’t get the response we’re hoping for. Many an author, even very successful ones, have received mountains of rejection letters before finding a willing publisher for their book. Many a great painter was unappreciated in their time. And, let’s be real here, my incredible, fantastic puns are often met with groans and the occasional rotten tomato. I dunno, perhaps I should stop performing to late-night, half-sober, back-ally crowds.
Anyone who has given their creative pursuit any serious effort knows the sting (and possibly stink) of rejection, whether from a negative response or the dreaded silence of no response at all. It hurts, deep deep down inside. It’s easy to feel we personally have been rejected, a pain not easy to recover from. Our work suddenly looks like a flaming wreck, with no survivors.
But, before we get too down in the dumps or drown in our tearful pool of self-pity, here’s the great thing I’ve learned: the more practice you get at critiquing and offering good advice to others, the better you become at accepting it yourself. As you reach out and respond, you’ll learn how to recognize bad advice, appreciate and follow the good advice and press on though times of little to no response, because, at the end of the day, you must learn to love taking part in the creative work itself whether or not the outcome is what you wanted.
I encourage you to be a first responder: both responsive to others and responsible for your own work, and you will, in time, receive the same kind of response you offer to others.
Hey Creatives, when have you seen a response make a difference, either from yourself or someone else? Let us know in the comments below.