Why are we are own worse critic as creatives? We allow the self-doubt to creep in and sometimes take over, it can feel like a constant battle.
We literally pull ourselves and our art apart, sometimes even before anyone else has had the chance to do it, so why? Understanding is the first point in managing our self-doubt.
Photo by Karmijn Simons
It's simple really:
It's literally our job as creatives to be critical.
You want to make the best music?
1. Let's start trying to make music - oh, we're not so good at it (because we have high standards and are new) - so, we figure out what we're really bad at - sometimes even list it so we can attack those areas and become good.
We become better.
2. Whilst we learn we make it, we listen to it, repeatedly, day in and night and we pick out the bad bits, we find the bits we can no longer stand and we change them until we like them.
We learn more - the quality improves.
3. We are harsh on ourselves - because we want our art to represent our high standards and excellent taste (that's no bad thing!), we may also work towards it standing up against the art we love - to be as loud, or bright, or catchy, or as high quality as the music that gets played out, because we want to play it out, and we want others to play it and enjoy it.
So, we compare, we note down all the reasons our music doesn't stand up against this person's music, or why someone might not play or like our music, or simply why we don't like our music as much as someone elses, or why we feel it doesn't sound how we want it to. We list the reasons it isn't 'perfect' - because we strive for quality.
Our music improves, and becomes quality enough to sit aside the music out there.
We grow confidence in our music.
We strive to be even better - we repeat.
We are critical, therefore we improve.
We are critical of our art AND sometimes we even welcome criticism - we welcome feedback from peers, mentors other creatives, with a view to improve.
It's part of the process, right?
Thats why our art gets better, and better and we become happier and happier with it.
We welcome criticism of our music because we strive for quality in our music.
We strive for quality in our music.
And, rightly so, we want to hit a certain level of quality before our music is released / sent to a label / performed.
"It's literally our job to be critical."
Critical thinking: A competency or a curse?
So we've been critical and aced our music creation - and we're constantly improving because of it, we've mastered the skill of critical thinking.
Then... all of a sudden... that critical thinking, the skills we developed in analysing and improving, seeps into every day life....
Before you know it, it's not just our art we are criticising and striving to improve, it's ourselves.
We search for problems and things to 'fix' the same way we do with our art.
We begin to notice and list our imperfections - we might even compare them to 'successful' people... or 'successful' brands.
But instead of celebrating, like we do when we revel in that moment of success when we finish a track, we play it, we get it signed or we're simply happy with it and content - we are filled with self doubt, because there is no 'finished version' of ourselves to celebrate.
The problem here lies in the fact, we are imperfectly perfect.
Each and every one of us.
What the hell is perfect in a human anyway?
Quality of music can be measured but we shouldn't be measured.
With music, it's quality can be measured in some sorts, we have certain measures to 'compare', certain boxes to 'tick' (and each one varies dependant on purpose of course):
- Genre-fitting (or rule breaking)
- Music theory considered
- Purpose fitting - fit for radio, club, film, to be performed etc....
And for labels: A big enough audience to sell to to make it financially successful
Audience engaging in your music is great for business, it feels good and, for most artists, they make music/art to share and for people to enjoy: it's great when it is welcomed and celebrated by an audience
They do say; there is an audience for every genre the same way there is an audience for every art form. It's subjective.
And perhaps, that is one things we take away, the same way there is an audience for every art form - there is an audience for every person.
And the quality of a person can not be measured by specifics - a quality of a person is not measure by successes or any kind of tick list.... it's simply kindness and love (including being kind to yourself).
Strive to improve by all means.
Continue to critically think to improve but...
Celebrate your wins, your growth & your self...
.... otherwise all we are is critical, and there is no fun in that.