THE Creativity Chronicles

A journal of creative thoughts, content commissions I'm working on and where I'm at right now. The life of a creative copywriter.

"Creativity takes courage" - Henri Matisse

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Criticism in the Creative Industry

August 12, 2017

It’s part and parcel of being in this industry that we (writers, photographers, designers, makers and more) have to accept criticism. And it is something that gets easier over time.

Using myself as an example, when I’m portraying someone else’s brand voice I have to get it right and that means respecting their views even when I think I’m right. Because my way might sound better but it’s not all about that, it has to be authentic to them which is something that I champion when it comes to content.

 

And you know what? Sometimes I get it wrong. I might get a word wrong (they hate that word) or I might get stuck on a phrase that just doesn’t feel right or more often than not, I’ll get it factually inaccurate (that’s not quite how the product works or they don’t want as much emphasis on that product range or service etc).

 

So taking criticism comes with the job and in all honesty, I think it makes us better and sharper when it comes to our skills. It certainly does for me as a writer anyhow. But today I want to talk about a certain type of criticism called missing the mark. It’s very rare that it goes totally wrong for me on a project (less than I can count on one hand in a decade) but here is what I’ve learnt.

 

Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if this is your project? Is this your client? Because for me, every now and again I’ll take on a project that I know I shouldn’t. Imagine loads of shiny ten pence pieces in your hand and one pound coin. I know I’m the girl who works with the ten pence pieces, – I don’t mean cheap but I mean silvery, smooth and full of potential. I polish them up and get them like new. I’m not the pound coin girl (classic, bronzed and often viewed as superior). Yet every now and I again when I see the gold glistening in my hands I think ooooh a challenge. It almost always ends badly. Here’s how it goes…

 

Firstly my gut says no, Jess walk away – this isn’t your project (or mainly, this isn’t your person). I’m getting much better at listening to this voice. Occasionally I ignore it. Next, they try to negotiate on my rate (often once they’ve booked me). Now I don’t tend to negotiate on my rates but even when I say no, the fact that they asked makes me question if they truly understand the value of what I offer. Another warning sign, they’ve worked with other writers and they need a writer as it’s gone wrong previously (they often cannot justify why), finally they need it tomorrow and they don’t really seem to respect that I have other clients or deadlines or that it’s 9pm at night or the weekend…. Yeah, yeah, just deliver it.

 

The biggest clue of all that I shouldn’t work with someone? They haven’t read my work and/or know nothing about me. Most of my actual (ten pence) clients come from Instagram or recommendation, they spend time watching me (I have some that read all of my blogs and email me their comments). I build a relationship first and then they become clients a few months down the line. I’m always suspicious of clients who don’t read my work or know anything about me because at the end of the day, I’m not for everyone. And I don’t feel comfortable with this.

 

I have learnt over the years that I don’t really “do” corporate writing. And that’s because corporate companies often tell me they want to sound innovative, exciting and stand out but what they usually mean is “insert the word ‘innovative’ every third sentence and we’ll just sort of pretend we’re groundbreaking whilst sounding dull”. So… yeah. Corporate – not my bag.

 

So why do I occasionally let a pound coin client slip through the net? It’s often because I like the person, sometimes because I like the job (rarely because of both), it’s usually involved with a new topic, a challenge or something that excites me. And I have been burnt one too many times doing it just for the money (a whole can of worms for another time).

 

But recently, when I received some criticism for some work I had done and I kicked myself for putting the passion and courage into it that I built my name on, I reminded myself – I’ve accepted another pound coin. One that I knew deep down belonged in another bank. A safer, more conservative one. For those that follow my other blogs, you’ll understand what I mean when I say a latte with an extra shot of milk.

 

The lesson of the day as always is to be honest with yourself, trust your instinct and be truthful with yourself about your motivations. An example from another part of my life – it took me a long time to learn that I can’t wear miniskirts. They just are not for me. I kept buying them every time I saw a nice one or a great advertising campaign. But even if it looked alright on me, I am NOT a miniskirt girl, I’m just not comfortable in one – once I truly got my head around this I could buy stuff that I would love and wear and have a great relationship with.

 

It’s the same with my clients. I can see a ten pence piece client a mile off and she (not being sexist but she IS usually a she) can see me a mile off also and is keen to work, not just with a writer or a soul coach but specifically with Jess Collins.

 

So the lesson as always is to think twice about the enquiries that come in, because I’ve had a few rogue pound coins this month and I turned down my ten pence clients for something new and sparkly and you know what? It turns out all that glitters is not gold.

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