This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to someone’s advice or constructive criticism. What it does mean is you shouldn’t let bad reviews get you down.
When I was in graphic design school and working on my final portfolio, one of my instructors was assigned to approve the pieces I had chosen. I had put a great deal of thought into which projects would be included, choosing only those items I felt showcased my best work, the ones I would be proud to say I created. I remember my instructor looking at one item for just a few seconds before saying, “I don’t like this one,” and tossing it aside.
Since I was still in school, and wanted to learn all I could about the creative process, I asked him why. What was it about the piece he didn’t like? How could I make it better?
He picked it up, looked at it for less than a minute, and said, “I guess it’s okay,” and put it back with the other portfolio pieces. I let that response derail me for a bit. I languished over what might be wrong with that one piece of artwork.
It took a while, but I was finally able to look at it differently. I liked the piece. I had chosen it. My instructor’s evaluation of my work was based on his personal preference. He couldn’t tell me what I could do to make it better because, from a technical perspective, there was nothing wrong with it. I had met all the requirements for the project. He just didn’t like it. And, that’s okay. Not everyone is going to like what we create.
I recently read an excellent article posted on The Write Life (Real Writers Get Bad Book Reviews. Here’s Why That’s OK.). My favorite part of the article, written by Michael Alvear, reminds us that not everyone likes chocolate. It’s crazy, I know! And, if there are people who don’t like chocolate, there will be people who won’t like what we have created. It’s that simple. We do not live in a one-size-fits-all society. What one person hates, another will love. We, as creatives, must be okay with that.
So, ask for the advice. Ask for feedback. But, if it doesn’t feel right to make changes to your work, whether it’s a book or a painting, don’t do it. In the end, you are the creator. You need to create what feels right to you. You need to create what you will be proud to call your own. Bad (and good) reviews will be there no matter what you do.