You Can't Avoid Criticism
No matter how much you want to hide under your pillow, if you put a creative project out into the world its going to be criticised. You just have to keep reminding yourself that although its often hard to hear, criticism of your work is better than the complete rejection that occurs when people ignore your creative efforts. (It's also better to get critiscm that to keep your work under you pillow!!)
Since I started developing Toadsquare, I have developed a deep familiarity with how I deal with criticism, rejection and failure: I freeze up, procrastinate for a while, give myself a talking to and then put on my big girl panties and push on.
Usually I am hardly aware of my reaction to criticism. My defensive feelings rush past and out of my mouth comes a reply to the critical comment. Listening to someone tell me about the issues my business has doesn't throw me, however when Toadsquare first launched in May 2013 and I had to conclude six months later that it was a failure, I was thrown.
I had to agree with everyone, it was too hard to use. Although everyone loved the concept of Toadsquare, no one used the site after joining. A period of busy work, procrastination and stress followed this realisation. Lets say it was a period of my life I could have skipped.
More practical friends and colleagues suggested that I should give up and not throw good money after bad or pour more time and energy into a project that had failed. Strangely enough the reason I didn't give up was the amount of criticism I received. Many people spent a lot of time telling me what was wrong with Toadsquare, why it didn't work and how they thought I could improve it. They also told me what worked. What worked was the concept. Creatives and fans alike wanted a site where creativity could be celebrated and shared.
Listening to Criticism: Hard but Valuable
I decided that if Toadsquare had aroused enough interest and passion to lead to this amount of criticism then it was worth trying to make it more user friendly and so we spent over a year re-designing. The re-design process was in many ways one of deciding which criticism was valuable and which advice was worth following. I can only hope we have succeeded.
Over the last year one of the hardest tasks has been to continue to listen with an open mind to the feedback I continued to receive. Some days I felt overloaded with advice. I wanted to shut my door and not listen as yet another person told me what was wrong with my business in one minute or less. Yet I had to keep listening, as sometimes I would hear absolute gems of advice.
Of course one of the reasons it was hard to listen is that advice, criticism and feedback are a personal attack, no matter how kindly framed. Toadsquare is my baby. I have had wonderful support from colleagues and family, but at the end of the day I am its founder and responsible for its strengths and weaknesses. Criticism of it is criticism of me.
The hardest criticism to listen to is when I am told politely and that there is no way I can succeed in building a community of creatives I am aiming too high as people are basically saying: Jane you are not capable.
Remember: Youre always your biggest Critic
I find myself today on as the site is yet again ready for feedback feeling rather ill and I definitely have a queasy stomach. I fear that it will still be too hard to use. I fear I have tried to do too much. I have a desire to hide Toadsquare away, to continue to fix the small imperfections I can see, to not ask other people for help. Yet even though I know there are still typos and mistakes I know that it is yet again ready for feedback and criticism.
My greatest fear is that no one will bother to critique the site and that I will receive no feedback. If this occurs the project I have spent almost four years on will really be a failure. I know that as much as criticism and rejection can be hard to take, if Toadsquare is ignored it will be worse.
I want people to join the site and to give me feedback on how we can truly make it the home of the creative industries. At the moment it is an empty gallery and like any gallery with no paintings on the wall it looks bare and cold. I need creatives and fans to help me by providing feedback even if it is a painful process.
A Call for Feedback
This whole process has also solidified for me the value that Toadsquare can bring to the creative industries. It's a site designed to allow people to ask for and to receive feedback. So I would like to ask all creatives and fans out there to help develop a resource for the creatives industries. Please join Toadsquare and give feedback (there is a feedback link in Your Toadsquare and in the footer).
As an incentive during the testing period I am giving away annual memberships for people to test the site. Go to Toadsquare and choose to join with annual membership. Enter the code TOAD1year when you get to the payment page.