How To Be Creative 07: Quit Being Defensive

One thing I’ve struggled with is being overly defensive of my work and ideas. It’s human nature, but it is a behavior I can keep in check for my own benefit. Passion and confidence are great, but not when they become an obstacle to your improvement.

When we believe in an idea so hard or have invested so much in a project, any criticism comes across as blasphemy. How dare someone trash me? What have they ever accomplished? They have no idea what they’re talking about! I know that’s been my reaction plenty of times, even if I kept the words to myself. But the problem from a creative standpoint, besides not taking on a growth mindset, is that being angry and defensive uses up your creative energy and resources. All that time spent defending your work and trying to knock down others takes away from time spent bettering yourself or being more prolific. At the very least, it’s taxing because you’ll need to calm down and refocus.

In creative work, you might be better off committing a cardinal sin of team sports — a whole lot of offense and limited defense. Because unlike the playing field there aren’t that many enemies — and you just might be the biggest one. You are better off producing more than letting hubris interfere because you’ll always be accomplishing more than your loudest critics.

That’s not to say you should ignore all criticism. Like I mentioned in a previously, constructive criticism is necessary and something you should be grateful to receive. But take those criticisms as suggestions. Or a sign that someone had enough belief in your abilities to offer their opinion.  If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know when to consider a change and when something is bullshit that defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish.