How do you take criticism?

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How do you take criticism?

#1 Post by yoshibb » Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:22 am

I have a big problem especially considering this is the field I want to get into. I cannot handle criticism. Whenever someone dislikes my work, even if there's another hundred people who enjoyed it, I feel miserable. It makes me want to take all my work and hole up somewhere to never release anything again. I remember when I sold some of my paintings in a market and one mean comment about my art as he walked by left me in tears. The only way I'm able to deal with criticism is to try to forget it even exists which is no good. It might be fine to throw out a comment just meant to be nasty, but I need to learn how to deal with constructive criticism if someone doesn't like the game I made.

All it ever does is demotivate me, though, and I don't know what to do about it. I over think about every aspect of what I'm working on now because I'm scared to death of getting a bad review. Is there something I can do about this? I feel like I'm destined to fail unless I can overcome this hurdle.

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Re: How do you take criticism?

#2 Post by Mad Harlequin » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:42 am

Have you considered counseling? If one bad comment sends you into a tailspin, despite receiving a hundred positive comments, you might need help breaking free of negative thought patterns.
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#3 Post by Ryuushiro » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:46 am

This is such an interesting topic.
I can take criticism quite well now, but around five years ago I was really bad at it. I always took it personally. Believe me or not, I used to draw characters without eyebrows. I remember when someone pointed that out to me, I was really angry and actually had a fight with that person. As you can see, I was pretty stupid.
...Still, that kinda lingered in my mind, and I ended up trying to draw eyebrows. I am very thankful for that person nowdays and always ask for their opinion on my drawings.
I also remember when my husband did not like a character I drew, and I was so sad because I thought I did great. I decided not to use that character anywhere out of sadness. A month later I saw that drawing again and I actually went hug and thank my husband, because the drawing was really bad and I understood that he really believed in me, he belived I could do better.

That's what criticism is for me now. It's someone pushing you further, saying 'I don't like this, I'm sure you can do much better!' and that encourages me. Sometimes you spent so much time on something that you can't prefectly see the flaws in it, which is why criticism might bother you. I try to remember that while not all parts of a critique will be usefull for me, I must do my best to decide what I can remember to help myself improve and what I can ignore. Internet is actually full of people who do not express their criticism in an educated manner, but I still try to take it in and find if what they are saying might help me somehow.
You must also remember though that not everyone can like the same things. While you drawing/writing style might please some, other people might really dislike it. And that's okay!!! Same way I (sadly) can't like all artists, some people will not like me.

My view on criticism changed only after I realised how some of it really helped me. And I think I only realised how it helped me after I matured a bit. Just don't be afraid of trying new things (like drawing eyebrows was for me, haha!) that other people might feel that is lacking or missing in your works. It might make you like what you made a lot more and make you become thankful for the critiques you might recieve.

(A-ah, sorry for writing so much! But I hope this has helped somehow!)
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#4 Post by truefaiterman » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:53 am

If it's so serious that a single comment from a guy who didn't even stop to complain or anything like that, brought you to tears... Well, I don't know what to say. Perhaps you may look for a professional?

The usual answer for me would be "deal with it and keep doing your best", but that's hardly an easy answer.

To put it simply, people can be asshol*s, and there are times where they just don't give a crap about anything, and instead of critisicing they simply insult your work and get away. The ideal should be to automatically label that kind of criticism as worthless, and forget it.

Of course, that's only if we handle with destructive stuff for the sake of insulting. If the usual "This and that thing could be better" is something more valuable, and I recommend to accept and embrace it (even if 100 people say it's perfect and only one says otherwise, there MAY be a good reason that persons exposed that opinion, and everything in that regard can help).
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#5 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:56 am

Part of it is just getting a lot of criticism - constructive or otherwise. The more you get, the better you should get at handling it. You'll learn to accept and use the constructive criticism to improve yourself, and discard the criticisms that aren't valid. (Learning the difference between the two can take practice too.)

Another thing that helped me in art school is this: Don't treat every piece of art you create as a precious snowflake. We naturally are protective of art we slave over, and when we are new to art, every completed piece can feel like a monumental achievement. But by producing lots of artwork quickly on a regular basis, we can detach ourselves from overvaluing any one piece.

Art school helped with both of these, because I was forced to produce a large volume of work every week, and we had art critiques done of our work in front of dozens of people, by dozens of people, in person. One of my professors (my favorite) used to regularly destroy students art work - tear up the original, or delete our computer files, etc. His response to anyone getting upset at this was that they could create that artwork again, and the next time it would be better and could be completed faster. And he was right. One semester in one of his classes gave more improvement in skill than three semesters in someone else's class.

So basically, don't entangle your self-worth with your art. Your art isn't a non-renewable commodity - you can always create more, and the more you create the better it becomes.

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Re: How do you take criticism?

#6 Post by trooper6 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:07 pm

I can give you some feedback based on my experiences, this may or may not work for you.
Background: I'm an academic. I have to publish articles. Part of the article publishing process involves your article being sent out to anonymous reviewers who then write detailed critiques of the article...and if I don't address those critiques, I don't get published. If I don't get published I lose my job.

So how do I deal?
1) Practice. The more critique you get and the more critique you deal with, the more normalized the process becomes and the easier it is for you to deal with the critique. In art school, students will get crits all the time...this makes the process of dealing with critique normal and not some big huge deal.
2) Whenever I get my critical reviews (which are sometimes positive, sometimes not...always wanting some sort of change), the first thing I do is read them and then putting them away for a day. So that I can process through my defensive and stressed feelings...and so I can get to a space where I can listen to that feedback without taking it personally. Then, the next day, I analyze the critique and write spreadsheet where I put, in my own words, each critical point. And I write down: The critique, who gave me the critique, If I think the critique is valid, what I plan to do about the critique (if anything), and how large or small a revision that would be. And I have box I check off when the revision has been made. Now, the reason this step is important to me is because this way when I'm going through revisions, I'm dealing with my own rewriting of the critique, which doesn't trigger the defensiveness in the same way.

So here is the next part. If the critique is "This sucks!" That is not constructive criticism. If the critique includes no way to make my work better, then I ignore that critique...because it isn't critique, it is just an insult. Now, it is important to really analyze if there is a way to make my work better buried even in what seems like an insult. And also, you have to also be able to decide when you don't feel like this particular critique is something you needs to be addressed.

For example, here are three critiques for a fictional work and how I might think about them:
**"This sucks!" has nothing constructive in it for me to work with. So I just ignore this.
**"This game sucks, it is a pretentious art game! It isn't even a game! There wasn't enough gameplay!" So I might rewrite this as: "Commenter dislikes the art game genre and wants the game to have more traditional gameplay." Then I think about how I feel about this rewritten comment. I think about my game, how do I feel about the genre or the level of gameplay? I decide that I like its genre...that's why I made an art game...and I made a VN which doesn't have the sort of gameplay this guy is going to like. So I'm okay with how my game is in this matter and note that I won't change my game in light of this critique.
**"This game sucks! The perspective on the art is all wrong!" So I might rewrite this as: "Commenter feels the use of perspective in my art is off." Then I think about this rewritten critique. Now, if I were making some sort of surrealist art where the perspective was supposed to be off...this critique might be evidence that the perspective was not off in a way that made it look deliberate...and maybe I want to go through and fix this. On the other hand, maybe I did want to have more realist perspective...this comment is evidence that I might have failed at that with this game. So I think about if I want to go through and fix this. Either way, I need to ask myself--do I have the time to address this critique in this game? If I do? Then I'll address it. If I don't? Then I won't redo the game art, I'll just keep it in mind for future art...maybe even do some perspective practice in the meantime.

And I think this is something I want to put across:
You are not your work.
You produce your work, but you are not your work.
If someone doesn't like your work, they didn't like something you did...doesn't mean they don't like you.
If someone says your work is crap (and let's say it is true...though it might not be), that just means you produced something crappy (and everyone produces crappy things) it doesn't mean you are a crappy person.
Learn to separate your work from your identity a bit.
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#7 Post by The Library Cat » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:43 pm

trooper6's suggestion of putting critique aside for a day and/or rewriting it is something I can personally vouch for being a very good thing to do. What I'd like to add to this is that you should check in with yourself before you even look at anything critical at all. Are you hungry? Are you tired, or in a hurry, or is something distracting or annoying you? What about your emotional state of mind? Are you upset or angry already? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then don't go near critique! Put yourself in a neutral mood before analysing your work, and carve out an hour or more (depending on how much feedback you actually have to sift through) to do so, that'll soften any blow you might get and make it less stressful.
From personal experience, I have already developed a thick skin - especially after studying languages for two years, where my writing is heavily critiqued whether I like it or not, and where I need to learn from this critique or crash and burn - so I don't perceive critique as a bad thing anymore and I can distance myself sufficiently from what I produce to not see it as a personal attack. In fact, I'm more likely to agree with criticism now than a few years ago, as I've become critical of my work aswell. For things I do often, I know where my weaknesses are, and for new forms of writing, I quickly find out what works and what needs improvement. Best benefit to criticism I have yet seen in myself, to be honest! :)

However, I also agree with the other posters here and suggest meeting with a therapist, if possible. Putting yourself through a heavy emotional reaction just to 'develop a thick skin' is not advisable - in fact, it probably won't work anyway, so don't waste time and nerves trying, get additional help to find the underlying cause of your feelings. There's no shame in that, and anybody who tells you otherwise is not playing for your team.
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#8 Post by teacup » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:54 pm

Yoshibb, you have no idea how much I can relate to this.

When I released my first game, I got SO much criticism, and a lot of it was really harsh (people saying they straight up hated the game, that I was a bad writer, the art was lazy and it looked like I didn’t try. Someone even called me a misogynist, and I didn’t even know what that word meant at the time). On the other hand, there were hundreds more people who loved the game, but I could only focus on the negative. I got depressed over it and ended up responding defensively. I had to take a year-long break from making VNs because I was so scared of getting that kind of criticism again. Even now, I can’t really look back at the early comments I got on (P)lanets because they hurt me.

Here’s the thing, though: there’s a difference between criticism and someone just being rude/insulting. Criticism should help you improve.

Here’s a situation that happens to me a lot: A bunch of people say my art sucks. That’s not criticism. Ignore those comments. They’re useless. But when someone says something like ‘Hey, something about your art is off… I think it’s the anatomy. You should work on that. The arms are too long, eyes too far apart etc’, that motivates me to go study anatomy. Yeah, it sucks because I work hard on all of my art, but it only encourages me to work harder. I fix what they say looks bad and show them. When they say it looks better, I feel so proud of myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, there are people out there who just want to make you feel bad, and you shouldn’t give them the time of day. But the people who take time to actually point out the flaws in an intelligent manner, who aren’t just yelling insults at you? They want to see you improve. Even if they totally hate whatever you created, believe it or not, they’re rooting for you to get better.

And this might not apply to you, but for me, how I handled crit had a lot to do with my low self esteem. If that’s something you struggle with too, there’s no shame in getting help for it. I’ve been in therapy for it for months and I can handle crit so much better now after working on depression and self worth. :) I’m here if you ever want to talk!
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#9 Post by yoshibb » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:19 pm

Thank you so much for all the advice, guys. Just to clarify real quick since I now realize how awful it sounds, the time I started crying because of a mean comment was after I spent like 8 hours in that market and managed to sell only two prints the whole day. It was just a bad day and the comment was my breaking point. I was able to talk to a friend about it who was in another booth and he encouraged me, and I was alright. But yeah, it was a lot of built up of frustration of just not selling my stuff and believing people didn't like my art. I am better than I was a few years ago but I am seeing a therapist for my anxiety issues. I will try to discuss this with him the next time I see him.

With that out of the way, I really like the advice given here. I think the big thing is for me to be able to separate the good criticism from the bad. I will definitely try your method trooper6 because I think that would be helpful to rewrite the criticism in a softer way. Also making sure I'm in the right mood to gather criticism is good too. I think a lot of the time I'm almost waiting for the bad things to be said because when you don't have the best self esteem those comments can almost reaffirm what you are already thinking about yourself. Also I gotta stop treating my work like it's my baby and start treating it for what it is. It's just a game and some people will love it while others won't.

I appreciate you all taking the time to help me with this. It's something I've always struggled with among other issues. I'm gonna keep working to get better at this.

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Re: How do you take criticism?

#10 Post by Mad Harlequin » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:25 pm

yoshibb wrote:Thank you so much for all the advice, guys. Just to clarify real quick since I now realize how awful it sounds, the time I started crying because of a mean comment was after I spent like 8 hours in that market and managed to sell only two prints the whole day. It was just a bad day and the comment was my breaking point. I was able to talk to a friend about it who was in another booth and he encouraged me, and I was alright. But yeah, it was a lot of built up of frustration of just not selling my stuff and believing people didn't like my art. I am better than I was a few years ago but I am seeing a therapist for my anxiety issues. I will try to discuss this with him the next time I see him.
Okay, whew! I thought you were in a worse place than you actually are. But you should definitely talk to your therapist about these things. It'll help a lot!
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#11 Post by yuucie » Sat Apr 18, 2015 9:56 pm

yoshibb, I completely understand how you feel. I don't think criticism is ever easy to take, especially the really harsh or hurtful ones. I make a point of separating constructive criticism from harsh/hurtful criticism, because I feel both are vastly different in their goal.

The thing about negative words is that you're more likely to remember them over the positive, because pain leaves scars that you will remember for a long time. We remember pain and negativity more than positivity, because that's how our minds are trained to remember and avoid (to protect us). Kindness may touch our hearts, but they don't leave scars like cruelty does, and that's why it seems like they're less memorable when you are in pain.

You did ask how to handle constructive crit, and how I usually understand it is this: The goal of constructive criticism is to help you notice your weak areas that you can't see on your own, so that you'll be able to improve yourself on it next time. Good constructive criticism (when my friends ask me for it, this is how I build mine) is letting the person know these weak points, but also stressing areas where they have done well so they know what they did right. When I was in high school my writing got ripped apart by my English teacher, but I loved her because she was always fair and showed us examples of bad vs good writing. I realized she was invested in helping us write better, and in the process express ourselves in ways we couldn't have done before, as well as look at the world in a different light.

My teacher taught me that people who take the time to give you good, constructive critique are people who care about your development. They want you to improve, because they truly believe you're capable of doing better. It doesn't mean what you're doing now is crap, it just means you are growing.

The hurtful comments are people who really don't care about you. Their goal is to hurt, to make themselves feel better by knocking someone else down.

Constructive crit is really important to an artist, because you can't improve in something if you don't know where your weaknesses lie. When you enter an artistic field, whether it's art or writing, you will face critique, and I applaud you for the courage for wanting to learn how to be able to handle it, because it really is a courageous thing to do.

On a side note, I do feel there are people who force their critique on others and then get upset when their critique isn't taken well. While their intentions are good, people do handle criticism differently, and you do have the right to say no to it. Sometimes people show their work to others because they're proud of it and are not looking for criticism, and there's nothing wrong in that. I give constructive crit to my friends when they come to me and ask for it, but otherwise I appreciate their hard work for what it is.

(Also, I am sorry if I've ever come across as forcing my critique onto you. You are a good writer and a hardworking artist, and I hope you don't throw in the towel anytime soon.)

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Re: How do you take criticism?

#12 Post by trooper6 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:55 pm

Note: I think it is an important skill to learn how to find something constructive even in destructive criticism. Some people's feedback will be harsh and they won't be nice...and they may not have your best feelings at heart. But that doesn't mean that you can't get something from their critique. Indeed, being able to find something constructive in something harsh can be a means of taking control of a negative hurtful thing.

I've had some people give me really, really hurtful critique that was not constructive and most of it was actually an attack on my old advisor and not even about my work. I could have let that tear he down, but in stead, I analyzed all the ranting dispassionately...dissecting it...those words were something I controlled now. And I found things I could use to make my work better. And now my work is being published in a very prestigious journal.

Lastly, yuucie's post is exactly why I don't feel comfortable giving people Honest Feedback unless they have the button in their signature. A lot of people don't want honest feedback.
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#13 Post by yoshibb » Sun Apr 19, 2015 1:00 am

I actually hadn't thought about it that way but it makes sense that we remember the pain more as a defense mechanism. And of course my defense mechanism is 'well I don't want to see any more of those comments so I'll just not release anything else to protect myself'. So it's like you are actively fighting your instincts.

And you don't have to worry, yuucie, I like the type of critique you are talking about where you supplement the good pieces with some of the things that need work. That's how I was always taught to critique and personally knowing that there is stuff I did well makes me feel more open about improvement. It's the comments that are simply one long list of faults that get to me cause it makes you think that you didn't do anything right. Therefore, my brain just shuts down and doesn't want to try because of finding the whole process hopeless. I get over it, but it tends to ruin my production for at least a day which is something I'd like to improve. However, people on this forum have been very supportive so it's never been an issue here. Hopefully, I can get to the point I can add the honest critique button because I know it would be helpful. I want to be able to analyze the flaws in my work without taking it so personally.

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Re: How do you take criticism?

#14 Post by truefaiterman » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:30 am

yoshibb wrote:Thank you so much for all the advice, guys. Just to clarify real quick since I now realize how awful it sounds, the time I started crying because of a mean comment was after I spent like 8 hours in that market and managed to sell only two prints the whole day. It was just a bad day and the comment was my breaking point. I was able to talk to a friend about it who was in another booth and he encouraged me, and I was alright. But yeah, it was a lot of built up of frustration of just not selling my stuff and believing people didn't like my art. I am better than I was a few years ago but I am seeing a therapist for my anxiety issues. I will try to discuss this with him the next time I see him.
Oh, then I'm pretty positive you'll have an easier time with all of this, specially since that big "crying because of a bad comment" was actually an undestandable "I was tired, stressed out and suddenly someone put the nail in the coffin".

Trooper6's advice is excellent, and with everything the posters have said, and the council of your therapist, you may have a good base to keep advancing. Cheers!

PD: About the subject on giving advice, I actually was one of the "so harsh it was almost destructive" until a few years ago, so today I'm kinda afraid about criticising stuff. I allow myself more freedom when giving feedback on art because I got used to it on DeviantArt, but I hardly do it with anything else.
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Re: How do you take criticism?

#15 Post by RotGtIE » Sun Apr 19, 2015 7:34 am

With a grain of salt.

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