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The creative process is one that is open to criticism, and most times damaging criticism. This is because everything that you create and showcase a little piece of you is wrapped up in it and it goes out with it. How you ask? Because when you’re creating, your mind, body and soul are all engaged. I like to say that in that moment you’re creating, it’s like you’re in a trance. You’re oblivious of what’s going on around you and all your faculties are focused and centered into that one thing that you’re creating. You really are in to win it at that point. And as you create, you feel that this is one of your best ones yet. It makes you feel hopeful and you believe in its success.
The creative process cuts across the disciplines, from the arts to the sciences. Truth be told, there’s a time I used to think that there is one that is superior to the other, because that’s how we are conditioned to think. It is like there is one discipline that is doing the most in terms of offering solutions, and that they’re the ones that have more impact in the society. But as I grow up, I realize that both disciplines are equally as important and each one of them contributes to the betterment of our society. The lack of one discipline would probably mean the failure of the other, because they feed off each other. They need each other. Think of a chef, a musician, a software developer, an architect, a doctor, a scientist, a writer, a painter, a carpenter, an engineer, a designer, a creative director, a marketer, the list is endless!
Each one of them experiences their own complexities of which you would only understand if you are the creator or are actively involved in the process. The intricacies of the process it takes for them to come up with this amazing product or service. The time, the effort (physical and mental), the emotional and financial investments you have put in.
Then one day, a meeting is scheduled and you share this creation with people and in that one sitting, its ripped apart and shredded. You are probably in not so many words told how shitty your creation is, or how stupid the person who came up with this idea must’ve been. All this while, you are being told by someone who has no idea what you went through to create or to come up with this final product. They’re basing their opinion on their tastes and preference or their assumption of what people want to see or even what they want to see themselves (it’s very subjective). And you as the creator is left there feeling like shit, or like you’ve literally wasted your resources to come up with this thing. No one sees any value in it or appreciates the effort that you have put into it, even if in a small way.
If you have gotten to where you are and you have never felt like you are not meant to be there or you don’t deserve to be there, then good for you! If you have, just remember you are not alone, the imposter syndrome is real. Every single day, many of us are sitting in our different places of work or businesses giving ourselves pep talks on how we’ve got this, and how we’re the best and how we deserve the compliments and the accolades we have received, because we have put in the work. It might not meet the expectations of those assessing it sometimes, but the fact that you have put in the work is a big deal and you should always remember that.
On that note, I would say there’s so many ways to approach a creator, because the imposter syndrome / self-doubt is as a result of the kind of feedback loop we have. If you are told one too many times that your work is shit or it is not up to par and no one tells you where the problem lies, then you are most likely to develop a complex. You start seeking perfection as you create, as opposed to meeting a need that is there or even giving it your best shot. You create with the appraiser in mind, because you want them to like what you are creating. And in the process you lose your passion and uniqueness and your delivery is tends to be bland, even in your eyes.
Below are some of the ways to approach Creators that leaves them feeling better about who they are and what they do. Such that even if their work is not up to par as per your assessment, they still feel motivated to go back and review the process and then revise the final product/service so that it delivers on the need or meets the objectives you had set out for the project.
Give Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism empowers someone, anyone for that matter. Once you receive it, you know what you need to work on; you know where you went wrong and can review it and revise it. It doesn’t leave you feeling useless or like you’re not the right person for this job or that you can’t deliver on this assignment/project.
With this kind of feedback, as the evaluator/assesor, you are able to share with them what you think of their creation and then break down what you think/feel will work and what won’t work and why. Don’t call them names or demean their work, because they’ve genuinely put in the work even if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
We keep telling people in the workplace to have tough skin when they’re abused and dismissed as they present their work, but instead of building reliable and kindhearted creators, we build unpleasant and callous creators that one struggles to work with or ones that just don’t care anymore – which in turn makes the process and working environment daunting and painful for the entire team.
Acknowledge the effort that someone has put into the work/product/service
It’s the little things that count and these little things go a really long way. The creator could have gotten it all wrong as per your assessment/evaluation, but acknowledging the effort that someone has put into the work means a lot. It’s not like they were lazy or they deliberately didn’t do the work. They just didn’t get it right for one reason or another – they might have misinterpreted the brief, they might have misunderstood what needs to be delivered, and that happens. And that leads me to the next one…
Communicate your expectations clearly and endeavor to collaborate
Most of the time, the reason there is usually that disconnect between the creator and those that they’re creating for i.e. the consumer, is because their expectations have not been clearly communicated, in that they could have been shared, but they’re vague. So the creator has to go back to their shed and imagine what the consumer could possibly want. But open communication between the two parties where the creator can freely ask questions and get answers, and at the same time also be open to constructive feedback when it comes without feeling attacked.
My friend recently told me,
Seek to understand, not to be understood.
To be honest, it took me a while to soak that in, because I want to be understood. However, it doesn’t work that way, because most people seek to be understood anyway.
So the creator in this case will be required to seek to understand what the consumers of their product wants/needs. This is so that as they continue with the project, they’re meeting those needs. If you see a gap, because humans are humans, sometimes we don’t get everything to a T, endeavor to collaborate. Work together with the creator to see how you fill those gaps. Be the third eye so that you can see what they’re not seeing and give them feedback on how they can improve. But don’t be rude about it.
My parting shot,
Be kind to the people you interact with or work with, because you don’t know the other battles they’re fighting. And even if their personal lives are none of your business, this person is in your team, so it’s your business to be sensitive to them. It costs you nothing to be kind, but you will get the most returns for being kind.