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Who Do You Create For – Yourself or Critics?

by Shane Mehling
creativity

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You shouldn’t expect this ages-old controversy to be settled by the end of this article, but it is important to keep in mind if you are struggling with exactly what kind of project you are working on.

The controversy, of course, is that there are two kinds of creativity – that which produces entertainment and that which produces art. And while many of us may be content with creating that which is unabashedly a guilty pleasure or a beach read or just something cute to make people smile, there are others who worry their work lacks the artistic heft of their idols.

And for that second group, all that can be said is this: it really, honestly doesn’t matter at all?

It is true that the creative world is filled with critics, those who spend their time trying to compartmentalize what is “good” and “bad” and picking out certain people as geniuses while others are just hacks who are popular with idiots. You may even do this yourself, and don’t want to get painted with the same brush as those who do work that isn’t up to par with all of those classic artists.

But spending your time thinking about how your art will be perceived wastes precious time and energy actually trying to make your work better. You are a terrible critic of your work, we all are, and the idea that you can look at what you’re doing and know that people will think it’s artistic genius or lightweight entertainment really isn’t possible.

Plenty of artists who are now lauded were considered mere entertainment during their lives while many that the critics admired did not age well or are completely forgotten. Which means that not only are you a terrible critic of your work, but likely many of the critics have no idea what they’re talking about either. Tastes change and mere amusements become classics (and vice versa) all the time.

You may be working on something that you think only a certain kind of people will enjoy. But creating something that is honest and genuine and connects with anyone, whether it’s art or entertainment, is all that should matter.

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Shane Mehling

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.