“Hail House is another venue which has gone through a number of changes in their programming since re-opening after the name change. It was promising to see something such as a musical residency promising to illumine the culturally relevant issue of mental health on their docket. The first thing that strikes you, however, is the experience got far more professional and tasteful in execution over the three night time period. One could reasonable hope that the performance of the music and the choice in repertoire would have been done with more experience and taste. This first outing was clearly done far too early in the organization’s development and reflected a great deal of amateurish on all sides. For example, the vocalist,” our diva read her name in the paper with mouth agape, “which many people seemed to find so appealing has a sound so ubiquitous and so easy to understand that made one long for the lost sophistication of singers that graced the stages of this town many years ago.”
The Day 22 challenge on your journey is to deal with inevitable criticism.
“Oh my God, he hated it…” our diva gasped alone in her kitchen. She felt a tidal wave of shame breaking over her entire body. Her stomach was surging up into her throat and she was fighting off painful tears. No wonder her cousin had texted her multiple times today. Everybody she ever knew had read this, she thought, and they were probably all sitting around their kitchen tables. She imagined these strangers all laughing about how dumb she was to ever think she could pull off a project like this. Our diva’s knees slackened and she started to deflate towards the floor. Her right shoulder dipped down low and then her left shoulder caught up and helped pull her towards the linoleum. Our diva was a falling soufflé in slow motion. Without a physical punch, she was beaten.
“This is why people don’t read reviews,” she whispered to herself. A memory flashed through her consciousness of how great it had felt to be on stage. She could see the faces in the audience smiling back at her. That image pierced her heart. They knew. They knew that she was failing and they smiled at her anyway. She knew people that got aggressive about criticism. She couldn’t figure it out. If heartbreak were visible, her kitchen floor would look like the aftermath of an F5. She was sure, maybe in some other universe, that Gary England was nearby covering it.
Move Your Body
Suddenly, the kitchen felt very oppressive. “I need to go outside,” our diva decided. She grabbed her hoodie and headed out the front door. She started walking. It helped. The air was heavy and still outside. But, she could begin to clear her mind. She needed to do whatever helped to calm herself down. Then, she could begin to consider her options for dealing with the criticism.
“Okay, I have to start sorting this out,” she thought. She was walking past an elementary school. There were a few kids running around the playground even on the weekend. Their shrieks of joy made her flash a short-lived smile. “How can I work myself through this feeling?” she asked. Our diva made a plan that she would ask herself a new question for each block and only give herself that block to ruminate on the subject. From curb ramp to curb ramp she cycled through:
Self-Processing Criticism Plan
- Is this criticism positive or negative? Why?
- Her initial reaction was negative. She felt totaled by this write-up. After about half the block, she figured that very few people would take this review too seriously. It wouldn’t be good but it would stick in her mind a lot longer than anyone else’s. She promised herself that after the embarrassment she was experiencing subsided she would try to reframe the critic’s comments as suggestions for the next steps on her path. She could find a way to make it positive. But, it would hurt first.
- Is there evidence both for and against the critic’s remarks?
- She was able to start seeing the basis for the critic’s thoughts. There were things he mentioned in the review that were on her “next time” list. She decided she wasn’t going to berate herself for choosing action over inaction even if that meant that they both, she and the critic, knew the missing elements.
- However, she also recalled specific audience members who came up to her and genuinely thanked her for the experience. She worried that they had all been lying to her but she could get a feeling from them that it had been special for them. There were people, beyond her family and friends, who had commented positively on her performance. In fact, there was a local composer/conductor who had introduced herself and suggested that they collaborate in the future.
Breaking Criticisms Down
- Why am I so resistant to this criticism?
- Our diva realized that this criticism stung more than other moments of feedback because she had been holding this project so preciously in her mind. She had felt a little blindsided by the critic’s opinions because she hadn’t sought them specifically. She hadn’t prepared herself to think objectively about the recent performance or done a post-mortem on the event yet.
- What are the specific criticisms?
- She took a block to think about the specific aspects on which the critic had reported. It wasn’t very helpful or useful to carry on about how the whole review was so awful. How could she isolate the areas that he specifically mentioned? After she did that, she could separate some areas that she still felt positively about. That had the benefit of balancing the scales in her mind a bit.
- What are the aspects of your work that were criticized?
- This was a slightly different question for our diva than the one right before it. She needed, desperately needed, to slowly walk this uphill block and think about how the criticisms addressed the work she did and not her as a person. “Man, it’s hard when your voice is inside of you,” she said out loud without thinking about it.
How Criticism Can Impact Your Future Plans
- How can I take this criticism into account for a future iteration?
- She made a plan to save the review and take a look at it in a couple of weeks. She would try to pull out the specific criticisms and see if she could make action items around the thoughts to put on her “next time” list.
- Is it worth it?
- If she took on this critic’s opinions, would it make her future residencies better?
Don’t Rush to Quit
She laughed when she thought the words “future residencies.” It seemed preposterous to still think there would be a next time. This had seemed like a small taste of success in her quest for artistic integrity. But, she felt stung by a false sense of security. She had taken a chance! She went for it. Maybe she shouldn’t have taken it. She certainly wouldn’t be feeling as bad as she did at this moment.
As she returned to her front door, her key lackadaisically found its way into the lock. She hovered at the opening for a instant and vowed to herself, “I’ll think about a ‘next time’ tomorrow.” The door whooshed shut behind her.