Hannibal from the A Team may love it when a plan comes together, but he never told us what to do when that doesn’t happen. As I said before, there are powerful emotions at work when your new creative project fails to launch. What do you do with all that energy and passion? Let’s break the recovery process down into some simple action steps:
Success is Not a Linear Path
Hollywood is obsessed with this idea that success starts out with a simple idea and then through a single path – usually a montage – all the stars align and everyone falls in love with you. This is false. Success doesn’t work that way. Not even in Hollywood.
If you aren’t familiar with this reality, you may feel like the negative reactions you’re getting are personally directed toward you. You may be tempted to react angrily. After all, you have an idea and you want to share it with people. Why all the hate?
It’s important to decouple yourself from your idea. Ideas come and go. Projects come and go. I remember Robert Downey Jr. talking with someone after The Judge came out, and it wasn’t doing well. His only comment was, ‘well, it stings … but then you’re onto the next project.’ If Iron Man can accept his setbacks without a meltdown, what’s our excuse?
Don’t take it personally. Brush yourself off. Realize that your path is not linear. Start creating again.
Make sense? Let’s keep going:
Arguing Makes It Worse
If you’ve presented something on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit or Imgur, and it’s not landing well, do yourself a favor: Shut up. Not because you’re wrong, but because arguing has never solved anything in the history of social media. One of two things are going to happen, and neither of them are good:
- You give trolls fuel for the fire.
- You will turn off potential new fans.
Put yourself in a fans’ shoes: In this polarized world, we’re burned out on outrage and controversy. We use art to escape the bad noise. Art is supposed to treat you like that wise, but laid-back uncle that never judges you and loves you unconditionally (I’m looking at you, Uncle Iroh).
So things aren’t going well? Don’t argue about it. Ask for feedback, but only if you are truly ready to hear it. Don’t ask for feedback to give yourself ammunition to respond to trolls. Even if you’re right, arguing will not help you. Like a surfer caught in a wave, your only move is to dive under and come up on the other side. Use some of these strategies to deflect the bad energy and then move forward.
Separate Out the Feedback from the Haters
There may be some genuine, useful feedback that comes from the community. Learn to listen to them, and separate out the trolls. Which is which? Read this list of troll types. Feedback is everyone else.
There’s no point in engaging a troll, or trying to win them over. Trolls gonna troll. It’s perfectly reasonable to ignore Internet comments you feel will not be productive. It’s perfectly reasonable to start out with someone who you think is giving you genuine feedback and then disengage when you realize they’re trolling you. It’s okay to walk away. No one will fault you for it.
Realize that Real Artists Take Hits
This is going to sound weird, but hear me out. In a world of Kardashians, be a Sinbad. I was watching this interview he did over two years ago, and he said something very poigant: ‘Real artists are willing to take the hits.’ We have to give ourselves the chance to suck before we can be great, according to Dave Grohl. If you’ve made something and someone comes along and says ‘That sucks,’ take it as a good thing! Take it as a message. You’re a real artist. You just got hit, and you took it. Good for you!
In Conclusion: Stand Tall in the Quarterdeck
At the end of the day, people won’t remember your critics as much as they will remember your response. Be grateful for the genuine feedback. Hold your head up high against the trolls. Live to fight another day. Remember that scene in ‘Master and Commander,’ where Russell Crowe brings the boy to his feet. “We stand tall on the quarterdeck, son. All of us.”
Being the artist and the creator means that we must believe in our work before anyone else can. Stand tall in the quarterdeck. Show them that you aren’t afraid.