When we create we inherently assume a level of risk: Acceptance. Due to the personal investment of our time, resources, focus, and even the emotion placed into birthing our work, we tend to see a creation as an extension of ourselves. The greater the investment, the greater the personally assigned value.
This is likely a good reason why little Sally is excited at the end of preschool to present her parents with her colorful drawings and paper cutouts. It is, in her cute little mind, a way to offer back love to her parents by presenting something that she created herself. And this is why her parents will often praise her for her work, perceiving its expressed value.
As Sally matures, her world grows beyond Mom and Dad, and she begins to weigh her value within the total of her societal connections. Therefore, she tends to equate her creative value as an adult with her ability to produce things that society will appreciate. So, it is not really just a matter of whether THE WORK will be seen, shared, appreciated, or accepted. It is more of a matter knowing if her work will allow HER to be seen, shared, appreciated, or accepted.
For Sally, the creative expression is not just an extension of herself, it IS Sally!
Sally = Creative Idea/Expression/Project
Isn’t it interesting how we can assemble a report, write a newsletter, paint a picture, edit a video, or present a speech, and when someone points out a potential change or challenges our thought process we take great offense? That is the result of assigning value to our work as a representation of self.
But should it be this way? Well, many of the expressive creatives might see it differently, but I honestly believe that a healthier perspective is in order.
Here’s the truth: Acceptance and rejection of your creative work should serve as confirmation, not taken personally. Remember, since you are intersecting culture with a different idea or perspective that some may accept it; others may not. The best response is to consider feedback and to make adjustments if and where necessary. Tim Herrera, Editor of the Smarter Living newsletter for The New York Times writes, “Frame it so it will ultimately lead to self-improvement.”
After all, excellence is not just about limiting creative expression or innovation to a few, but it’s about impacting the masses. That can only happen when we set our ego aside and consider honest feedback. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, says about this in an interview with Adam Grant for Ted Talks entitled “How to Love Criticism,” noting that “if your objective is to be as good as you can possibly be, then you are going to want that.” He goes on to say that hiding ourselves from this reveals that “they care more about their image than they care about the results.”
Besides considering the work or idea for possible changes, also consider your audience. For instance, pouring months into a screenplay, only to have it refused by the production house you thought was destined to produce it can be demoralizing. What do you do? Consider the screenplay for corrections, and by all means get back out there and present it to other producers and directors! Maybe the world needs to see your story, but you have to get it past the gatekeepers first.
Now, if your project is accepted, then you also have to realize that you are not synonymous with the project! Just as with rejection, choose to separate yourself to a degree. Celebrate, yes! but treat this as a confirmation that you are headed the right direction and use the energy to create more! It’s easy to think that one victory will propel you to a life of ease, but most of us learn that overnight successes typically only occur after years of focused work.
Have the humility to see that you and your work are not synonymous and the fortitude to keep pressing ahead.
Questions to consider:
- Can you identify with uneasy feelings when you make a proposal in a meeting and you wonder how it will be accepted?
- What is your typical response to a perceived creative failure (rejection)?
- How can you prepare for future personal success when it comes to linking yourself to your work?