Feedback and Creative Insecurity

Picture by Giulia Forsythe

Picture by Giulia Forsythe

“I create, therefore I feel insecure” Not always, not for everybody, but I suspect many will somehow feel familiar with the idea. Regardless of the field of choice, when we create something, a script, a shot, a performance, a film, a book, a dish, a scientific paper or a business presentation, it is likely we battle doubt and insecurity at a moment or another. The act of creation generates something new, something never seen, heard or tasted before. This original creation has never been judged and the insecurity could potentially originate from the feeling associated to an imminent round of ‘feedback’.

Feedback can be hard to take when feeling ‘creatively naked’. Our own certainty becomes threatened and that could potentially harm the ‘creation’; feedback is not always ‘right’. Our own creative taste is put to the test, and the thickness of our skin becomes obvious depending on our reaction. In everybody’s defence, the way feedback is formulated plays a big role in how it will be perceived. Contrary to the belief of some, words like ‘stupid’ and ‘shit’ do not provide the ‘manure’ needed to grow our skills and refine our instincts. I have been sitting on both sides of the ‘feedback table’ in the last few years and here are a few steps that helped me providing constructive feedback in a positive manner.

What did you like?

Start with a positive note. We learn so much more from what people like as opposed to what they do not. There are rare occasions where we personally do not even like a single aspect of a creation, and those moments are extremely delicate to deal with. But for the most part, there is something that we like, that gives the creation potential and that procured some level of enjoyment.

What did you understand?

A lot of what we create attempts to establish a channel of communication with an ‘audience’. Communications can sometimes misfire, regardless of the level of enjoyment provided. The intended message can be mistranslated. Also, many creations involve a meaning or a ‘trick’ the ‘creator’ is proud to have ‘implemented’. Sharing the understanding of such meaning or trick provides satisfaction and comfort, and prepares the ‘creator’ for the more ‘negative’ aspects of the feedback.

What did you not understand?

Communication is only the ‘intersection’ between the area of the intended message and the area of the deciphered message. When deciphering a creation, there could be aspects we do not understand. It is not that we do not like them (ok, maybe a little) but we struggle to understand how or why they belong to the creation, or what is their intended meaning. It is important to share this lack of understanding, and to not present it as a ‘dislike’.

What didn’t you like?

Finally, hopefully without unleashing a torrent of arguments, it is time to point out the dislikes (some might have already been explored in the previous step and can now be skipped). It is important to be honest and fair about a dislike when giving feedback. It is the decent thing to do, and the above steps might help present them in a positive manner.

Remember, the delivery is often a big part of the problems arising from communication. Mind your tone when giving and also when reacting to feedback. Be honest about your feelings, understand them, consider them but do not necessarily surrender to every single one of them. Doubt and insecurity are good signs, but they need to be managed and when they are chased away it is important to keep them at bay, as some would like to return and dance on your head for a while and induce an uneasy tempo into your heart.

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