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 learn keep in check. 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 they 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 energy and resources. All that time spent defending your work and trying to knock down others takes away from time spent working on your craft 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 no defense. Unlike the playing field, there aren’t that many enemies — and you just might be the biggest one. You’re better off producing more than letting your pride get in the way. That way you’ll always be accomplishing more than your loudest critics.

This isn’t to say you should ignore all criticism. Like I mentioned previously, constructive criticism is something you should be grateful to receive. But those criticisms are 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 it’s bullshit that defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish.