Creators & Critics and Who Do You Allow In Your Head?

Who is allowed in the conversation?

The other day I was live-streaming on Facebook – doing one of my intermittent, “S is for Song” streams. It’s me, typically in my office, with a guitar, performing three songs, usually originals.

I enjoy doing it and have been asked by some listeners to do them more often. Facebook has made this super-simple. My Galaxy S7, a desktop tripod with a cell-phone attachment, and me. I recall the old UStrem and LiveStream days – sync problems, etc.

Performing on a stream is odd – when you perform live there is a palpable audience energy – well, during those good gigs at house concerts or listening rooms. The energy is NOT really present during live streams. I mean, you get hearts and likes on the video, so that’s cool. But it is not nearly as emotionally and psychically connective.

On this day, a comment came in.. This person’s comment was an accusation that I was being narcissistic – I assume for performing online. We’ll explore the truth of that in a moment… I’ll cop to my arrogance but it is a slightly different topic.

In any case, I saw the comment. At the time, I mentioned that I subscribe to Brene Brown’s view of critics.

Brene Brown has an amazing TED Talk about listening to your critics. She cites Theodore Roosevelt’s passage, “It’s not the critic that counts.” She then goes on to add an insightful spin.

“If you are not in the arena… I’m not interested in your feedback”

At 7:55 she lays it out for creators.
“This is who I want to be I want to create. I want to make thing that didn’t exist before touched them.”

I want to show up and be seen in my work and my life.

And if you want to show up and be seen there is only one guarantee, and that is, you will get your ass kicked!

At 8:50 she establishes, what should be, the creator’s law on criticism.
“If you are not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

About Unfriending and Blocking

After the performance, I promptly unfriended this person and blocked them. No announcement, no message, no grandiose warning, etc. It isn’t even personal. It’s an automatic reaction based on a policy I established last year, after watching someone close to me receive criticism from someone who clearly IS NOT in the arena.

I told them, they need to block this person from any input into their creative craft. This was difficult for them to accept – this person was a “friend.” That’s fine, you can have friends who are not involved in, invited to, or allowed entry to your creative world. But the negative impact on my friend was significant.

And then I thought… you know, I should live the same standard.

I rarely (never) block anyone. I don’t care if they are politically caustic. I don’t care whether I agree with them or not. I don’t care if they comment on one of my sarcastic political diatribes and call me a dick!

Mostly, because I know I’m a dick! That’s fine… I also know that, in most cases, their caustic comments are about them – not me. How’s that for arrogant. 😉

And it isn’t about an unwillingness to take and accept criticism.

Allowing & Inviting Criticism

I have a manager who has been with me when I have recorded vocals. At the end of our first time working together in this manner, she sort of hemmed and hawed.. There was something she wanted to say. She started to make some softening disclaimers… “It was good.. I mean, I think there may be something you can add.. I’m not sure what kind of input you’d like.. But…”

I stopped her and said, “Just say it. I don’t have time to waste on you being gentle. Your job is to make me better and I give you absolute permission to lay it out. Don’t adorn it and do not soften it, please!”

And she didn’t. And it made me better.

You see, she’s been invited into a special place. I want her input. I want it direct and quick. And then I get to decide if I agree or not. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

What I tell her and others is that I’ll reject it initially and then accept it a week later and say it was my idea. 😉

On the other hand, the criticism on my live stream above, had nothing to do with my art or improving it. It was far more a reflection on a non-doer giving non-constructive and meaningless input on someone doing it. 

And listen, I’m not claiming super-stardom or that my performance was amazing! I think it was mostly, “eh” – so so.

But the criticism, it fit into the hard-fast rule I suggested for my friend, that was driven by Brene Brown’s TED Talk.

Do-nothings are simply not allowed to have input into the creation of the do-somethings!

In the past year, this has resulted in me unfriending and blocking four people. No hard feelings, I didn’t let them know, and quite honestly, I assume they don’t even realize. If they do, I assume they don’t care.

And so, if you are a creator, consider what  you allow as criticism on your creation. You are not required, nor is it recommended, that you accept unsolicited input from non-creators. In fact, you don’t need to accept input from anyone – although, would highly recommend you build a brain-trust of people you allow in. The right people will make you a better creator and “fan your flame.”

Re: Fan your flame. I saw a Will Smith video blog and loved it. It’s worth watching – repeatedly. You’ll find it below. I’ve included some additional advice and input for the creator. I hope it encourages you.

Now go forth and create.


Oh yeah, About Narcissism & Arrogance

I’ll touch on this briefly. The comment about narcissism demonstrates a lack of understanding of what narcissism is? I might be narcissistic – but not for performing. Now, if I thought I was the greatest performer and I was enamored with my own performance  – watching them repeatedly and loving myself in them – I might be narcissistic.

One aspect of the the definition involves self-focused eroticism – okay, guilty as charged – I’m HOT! And I know it! And I used to think that was just a byproduct of not having a date.

More importantly, I wrote about how we (all of us) view criticism. Before I accept the narcissism charge I need to fix that fucked up self-perception. We’ll keep working on it. Hoping to get some lessons from Kanye.


Will Smith – Who Fans your Flame?

“Don’t be hangin’ with no jank-ass jokers that don’t help you shine!”

Ze Frank – An Invocation for Beginnings

One of the best ever!

Theodore Roosevelt – It’s Not The Critic That Counts

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

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