Positive Writer

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Don’t Let Negative Feedback Stop You – 5 Helpful Tips

“Feedback” is a word that strikes dread in creative people the world over.  It is our proverbial “Boo!” and it really can scare the crap out of us.

Most of us crave feedback. We want to know our work matters to someone other than ourselves. Don’t we?

And yet, too many of us share our work at the wrong time and with the wrong people. Doing this we tend to bring forth the words we dread the most, such as “You’re work sucks, I hate it – get a day job!”

Creative Commons by JD Hancock

It doesn’t matter what type of art you create there will be people who absolutely hate it and people who absolutely love it. There will be people who get it, people who don’t and those who are somewhere in the middle.

The worst feedback ever

Feedback can help us improve and become better artists (writers, singers, painters – whatever your art is), but it can also hurt and put us in a dark hole from which we may never return.

I want you to imagine the absolute worst someone could possibly say.

Go ahead – don’t hold back.

Got it? Now increase the volume in your head. Imagine the person screaming out his or her hatred at you.

Did you survive the onslaught? Good. It’s time to move forward.

If someone is willing to go to such lengths to get you to listen to his rant you must be on to something worthwhile. If you weren’t, then why would anyone make such a ruckus over it?

Art is subjective

Each person who views, reads or listens to your work will have an opinion based on his or her wants, needs, desires, interests, experiences and, of course, what he or she likes and dislikes.

If you create something original and different you automatically increase the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. This is absolutely normal.

In general, most people accept things the way they are and reflexively show strong resistance when an idea demonstrates possible change to the status quo.

The same thing can happen if you’re a previous unknown and come out of nowhere with something that gets a crazy amount of attention.

Jealousy can run rampant when someone seems to skip the normal, accepted steps it takes to get noticed. This might not apply to you today, but be forewarned because if you are creating art and sharing it online, then it could happen tomorrow or next Friday.

Rebecca Black praised by Simon Cowell

Why did the song “Friday” by Rebecca Black become such an international viral hit if so many people claimed to hate it and therefore it was so terrible?

Simon Cowell who wisely advised Rebecca not to “listen to anyone over the age of 18” called it “Brilliant!

167 Million views on Youtube and no one liked it? Who’s fooling who?

If you’re a singer and you caught the attention of a producer as successful as Simon Cowell would you believe you created something worthwhile?

Ask the right people

We do need feedback to grow as artists, but the key is to ask for feedback from the right people when you are ready and not during the process.

What would have happened if Rebecca had received such feverish criticism while she was in the middle of recording “Friday”?

Maybe you or I, nor Simon Cowell would have ever heard of her.

If you were Rebecca Black would you listen to Simon Cowell, who has sold more than 300 million albums, or to the “haters” who were probably more filled with jealously than anything else?

And, to be honest, my feedback for “Friday” wouldn’t be all that helpful either, because it’s not really my thing, but for someone in that lane it may be the best thing since apple pie.

Tips for helpful feedback

1) Only ask for feedback when the work is ready. Feedback, regardless of what kind, can influence your creative process.

2) Do not ask the wrong people. If you ask someone who is resistant to the type of art you are presenting, then you will increase your chances for negative, unhelpful and counterproductive feedback.

3) Choose only a few people who you respect, who are qualified and open to the type of ideas you have. They should be honest and willing to give you feedback that might not be exactly what you want to hear, but have the goal of helping you shape your work into something great.

4) Ask for specifics and clear examples. Vague statements are unhelpful and can leave you lost as to what to do next.

5) It’s your work. Make the changes you feel comfortable with and then, let go.

Once your masterpiece is ready to be shared with the world it’s time to come to terms with the reality that there will be people who absolutely hate it, absolutely love it and those who are somewhere in the middle.

Keep moving forward.

The good news is, you and I, we are always learning, improving and growing as artists.

We are not perfect and that’s okay. Just don’t let negative feedback stop you.

Your work matters.

Has negative feedback ever stopped you? Share in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Writer's Doubt the Book
  • Katina Vaselopulos

    I love your post Bryan!
    Your tips are very “helpful” for new artists.
    I feel as though I started reading them 2 years ago…one each year.
    Now, 3,4,5,  all came one after the  other and pulled my book together!

    God bless you! You are an inspiration!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Congrats on your book, Katina!!

      • Katina Vaselopulos

        Thanks Bryan! Excited and scared!

  • http://www.thecatwhowrites.com/ Pooh Hodges

    Oh Bryan, you are so wise. Thank you for encouraging writers to boldly continue writing content that matters. I stopped writing for weeks after someone told me I should just stick to catching mice.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Mice? Oh my! However, seriously, don’t stop. Each effort helps us improve. Keep writing.

  • Steven H. Wolfe

    Thanks, Bryan for putting this topic out there! Whether we are artists or healthcare professionals or craft artisans, how we do our job is important to us! I am a Pharmacist who is in the process of losing my job because I have ADHD and some executive dysfunctioning. This to me is the highest form of negative feedback since it affects your livelihood. I have had no income for several months and my wife and I are living off our savings. But, I am not giving up!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Sorry to hear about that Steven. Hang in there and right, don’t give up! Instead, if it is about your ADHD, then consider getting legal help.

  • annepeterson

    Bryan,

    Good post. Very valuable information.

  • http://www.sharonrosegibson.com/ Sharon Rose Gibson

    Wow! Absolutely brilliant!
    Several insights helped me grow to a new level. One, yes I’ve had someone trash me about my writing, even a close family member. In retrospect, I see it was their issue but that’s another story. Did I survive? YES! I love that perspective because it means I can step out and get wham again and survive. :-)
    Some of your points are things I’ve done but you articulated them in such a fresh new way that they moved me to a new level of depth of understanding.
    Very well written and expressed!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      That’s right, Sharon, you will survive and someone must care enough of about your writing to give you that wham! :)

  • Morgan Maria I

    Great thoughts here Bryan! Resonating with your conclusion: “We are not perfect and that’s okay. Just don’t let negative feedback stop you.” 

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thank you, Margan.

  • Rozanne Paxmam

    I had to laugh a little with this one, because I’ve learned that the very worst person to ask for feedback from is my husband. His inevitable response, “Very good,” makes me want to bean him. All it does is frustrate me.

    So, yes… Watch carefully who you talk to!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      And I had to laugh a little while reading your comment. Don’t bean him, just ask the right people, because, yep, you’ll want to “bean” the others.

    • Melissamuhlenkamp

      You are way too funny Rozanne and I can totally relate. I’ve learned that sometimes those closest to us don’t necessarily share our interests or tastes when it comes to books, which makes it harder for them to be honest about a topic they aren’t drawn to to begin with. It might take some time to find the right person, but when you do, don’t let ‘em go! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/robcleonard Robbie Leonard

    That was great Bryan, thanks for the encouragement!  Negative feedback has never stopped me but it has come close to restraining me on occasion. I’ve only received one negative comment on my blog where I was told, “Not to be negative but you’re a bad writer.” The comment caught me off guard and I deleted it when I saw it. This comment still haunts me once in awhile.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Good for you, Robbie. Now delete it from your mind and the best way to do that is to write, write, write :)

  • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

     Bryan – your post resonates with me (and, as usual just what I needed to hear.) On Monday, I took a draft of my manifesto to my critique group. I heard comments such as “what is a manifesto?” “Why are you even doing this?” However, overall the feedback was fairly good. As you said, there will be some that just don’t get it. In our group, we have those who tend toward journalistic writing, others non-fiction, and some, like me,  fiction. In one section of my manifesto, I wrote about finding stories (from a fiction writer perspective) and gave an example. The journalists immediately said they would want to conduct interviews. The fiction writer got it immediately.

    Keep up the encouraging posts!

  • http://glorisurban.com/ Glori Surban

    Brilliant! I’ used to be one of those super sensitive types who gets affected with the slightest comment. Being a writer or working on being one necessitates thick skin, and that’s OK. :)

    Great tips!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Glori.

  • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

    Good post, Bryan. As much as negative feedback has stopped me, I think positive feedback affects my work more. It’s easy to get lazy when you’re winning.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Hey Joe, I hear you, man.

  • http://twitter.com/chelseih Chelsei Henderson

    Great post, Bryan. I think we should always use negative feedback to drive us forward, not put us in a standstill. 

    I dunno how you feel about it, but I much prefer building a critique group instead of approaching the people I crave approval from. This could be a spouse, best friend or mentor. I’ve found that when these people are impressed with what you’re doing, they’ll let you know. Seeking out their approval opens a door of honesty that you may not want to hear. 

    Learning that you need to improve in an area from a group of colleagues, classmates and peers that you respect will hurt your pride far less than not gaining the approval of someone you have placed in such high esteem in your life.

    I definitely advise a small, trust-worthy and honest critique group. It may take some time to build up, but it’ll save your a lot of heartache and insecurity in the long run.

    x. Chels

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Considering the subtitle of one of my free eBooks is “Stop Seeking Perfection and Approval” that might tell you how I feel about it :) I agree, simply seeking approval isn’t the answer, just as asking the wrong people isn’t the answer.
      Getting honest feedback from qualified people who care and who are interested, that’s the answer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/regibald.inkling Regibald Inkling

    I am a firm believer in these words of yours.  I have not ever allowed for anyone to read my work until it has gone through at least one redraft.  Negative feedback never pushes me back, for I am a writer.  If anyone wanted to tell me otherwise, he doesn’t know me.

    I have more.

  • Karen deBlieck

    Great post on a perennial problem for all artists. I loved it so much that I included it in my top posts for this week. Thank you!

    http://simplyscribblings.blogspot.ca/2013/01/top-5-blog-posts-this-week.html

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks for sharing, Karen!

  • KM Logan @lessonsfromivy

    I needed this post today, thanks for the positive feedback ; )

  • http://twitter.com/MG_WELLS MG WELLS

    Great post, Bryan! Just what I needed today. It’s challenging to keep a level head when we see so many of our peers, family and friends melting down. I agree with you. It’s unrealistic to let others’ negative comments get to you. Like our work, we humans are all a work in progress. Thanks for the inspiration, MG.

  • A writer

    Thanks for the article, Bryan. I have a question for you. I was talking with an experienced writer recently, and someone next to us asked how my book launch went, and I said it went well and received much positive feedback. The experienced writer turned and said “then maybe you didn’t get enough feedback”. I responded by saying I would welcome more feedback… but what the write said has been brewing in my mind for a while now. I keep thinking, maybe he didn’t like my book. Despite his experience, he writes very different material compared to me, but I still respect him as a writer, and his comment is bothering me.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      I understand where you’re coming from, because words like that can make us question what they mean. There might be hidden meaning, but it doesn’t matter. If someone’s not clear and obviously trying to rattle you, it’s meaningless and unhelpful. Try to let it pass and press on. That’s not always easy, but it’s what you have to do and keep writing!

      • A Writer

        Thanks for the advice. It’s hard to know whether he was being passive aggressive, or just commenting on the fact that there will always be positive and negative feedback regardless of the work. I agree that it’s “meaningless and unhelpful” when someone isn’t being clear, and I appreciate the advice to “let it pass and press on. After years of writing, some comments can still sting, but I’ve found that if I know what and how I want to create, and manage to do so in my own eyes, I have an easier time allowing negative comments role off my back, especially if I know what the comment means, and I clearly disagree. I find it harder when the message is unclear, because I don’t know if they’ve got a legitimate argument or not… So you’re advice works well here.

  • Maxwell

    Thanks for the Article, it is something I already knew inside but it’s nice and helpful to see it from someone more experienced. I tried to think of the worst thing someone could say about my book, and added a few swears for good measure. But I have a feeling it could still get worse then what I thought of.