[The Writing Director]: My Relationship with Criticism

“This is probably the gayest clip ever made.”

This is what I’m getting myself into. I spotted this constructive feedback on a music video I wrote and directed last month. Having given this a fair amount of thought, I still haven’t quite figured out what the person who posted this was thinking when they wrote it.


by Ben Cox

“Probably the gayest clip ever made.” Really? The gayest ever? I dunno, perhaps it was meant as a compliment? I mean, the gayest clip ever would be a hell of an achievement. I just wish they hadn’t prefixed it with probably, keeping me in a perpetual cloud of doubt. What do they even mean by “gayest”? I’m so confused, annoyed and hurt.

Ok, that’s not true. I did give this some thought but not because it bothered me. I gave it thought because my reaction was to smile, and I began thinking about how I came to a place where it became such a positive relationship in my life. I think criticism is an essential part of writing, not just because of what can be gained from it, but also because it’s so unavoidable.

criticism is an essential part of writing,
not just because of what can be gained from it,
but also because it’s so unavoidable

You see, my relationship with criticism is an important one, not just with YouTube hate mongers or bloggers, critics or reviewers. It’s also a huge part of being a writer. Meeting with script editors, producers, directors are a part of everyday life, and they all have an opinion. Actually, everyone has an opinion don’t they? Just about every friend or family member with a suggestion on how they would have done it. It’s something that’s unique to writers I think because you’re essentially trading in ideas, and everyone has ideas.

I’m currently a freelance writer/director with 7 short films and 4 music videos in my credits. I specialize in ‘outside the box’ thinking and have yet to meet an idea I didn’t think I could turn into something entertaining. Despite this I’m quite sensitive by nature, so criticism has never been easy for me to deal with. It mixes interestingly with my hypercompetitive nature as well.

Are judging eyes stopping you?

It’s easy to take criticism personally. To sulk and dwell on it no matter how many people also tell you they really like something you’ve created. We’ve all been there, and yet so many of us spend our time worrying about the negative feedback whilst brushing off the positive. The whole process can be debilitating. So why do I like it so much? My personality type certainly shouldn’t lead to me being good with criticism, and years of coping with it very badly as a teenager don’t suggest I should enjoy it.

So many of us spend our time worrying about the negative feedback
whilst brushing off the positive

However.

Although criticism can be crippling, it can also be liberating. When I’m sat in front of a notepad or laptop and debating whether I should write that thing which might really annoy/upset someone or their friend might think it’s rubbish, why am I doing that to myself? I have no control over how other people choose to consume something I did, so why worry about it? It’s the same as when I’m on a plane, why worry if something might go wrong? It’s out of my hands. That’s such a great feeling to have. As a writer I spend so much of my life trying to control things, my characters, my plot, my turning point two, that it’s nice to know there are things I can’t control, and don’t have to, so I don’t try to.

If you’re no longer worried about the response from your audience,
what you’re left with is whatever your imagination can come up with

Freedom from criticism is also freedom from expectation. If you’re no longer worried about the response from your audience, what you’re left with is whatever your imagination can come up with. That’s about as exciting a place as you can hope to be in. For me, this is what allows me to write from the heart about whatever I want to.

And as for that comment. It’s quite funny in an ironic way isn’t it?

You can decide for yourself here:

- Ben

537116_256345247829729_1971927398_nAfter gaining his B.A in English Literature at Loughborough University, Ben Cox spent 4 years as a musician, playing bass in the band Kyte, touring internationally and releasing a top 5 selling album in Japan.

He left the group to pursue a career as a director and writer.

Since graduating from the International Film School Sydney in 2012, he has written and directed three music videos.

Photo Credits: Ben Cox

One Comment

  1. Madeleine Parker February 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    This is not only a funny piece of writing but really does open up a discussion about criticism that is not had enough. As artists we are meant to just learn to take criticism as part and parcel with our chosen career but why are skills in other workplaces/professions taught through yearly workshops etc but artists are just meant to learn it on their own. It is acceptable for employees in most professions to file for compensation if the emotional stress of dealing with their job has caused some sort of long lasting emotional turmoil/depression but I wonder how many artists file for this type of compensation, when we are probably the ones who need it most. Everything we do is personal but I am constantly hearing ‘Don’t take this personally’ before someone is about to rip apart something you have worked months/years on and something you put your heart and soul into.

    I highly doubt criticism is something we were ever meant to take well. I wonder how Neanderthals took criticism. Neanderthal 1: “Look at my cave art, I spent all winter creating it” Neanderthal 2: “This is probably the gayest cave art ever made.” Neanderthal 1 reaches for wooden club and beats neanderthal 2 over the head with it.

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