embracing my inner v

Let me start by saying what is obvious to all: everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I've thought long and hard whether I should write about this or not. But I figure I'm entitled to my own opinion as well. I want to offer it, not as a complaint, as whining or as a "woe is me" post. Take this as part of the conversation and the back and forth that critiques are usually about.

So here it is. I've received two negative comments on Amazon (could be worse I know) about Home, Paper, Scissors that have given me some food for thought. If you want to take the time to read them go ahead. I'm not going to post them here. I feel like I need to address them a bit and explain why I decided to write this response of sorts.

Like any person that is in a creative field, I completely understand that not everything I design or make will be agreeable to all. But I'm not made of stone and it does sting a bit to read those words. However, I can also understand and I see how my book can be a disappointment to those that are expecting something different. I could go on but I'm trying to remain civilized and constructive here.

So, yes, my book isn't for everyone. But I do want to address the question about the validity of my ideas. The projects in the book are simple on purpose. Not only is that part of my style but I also wanted to write an accessible book. I wanted to cater to those that enjoy paper crafting but may be uninterested or don't have the time to try something too elaborate. So no, I don't think that my book was a waste of paper. I still stand by it.

Switching gears a bit.

As I was pondering all of the above, I was also thinking about what it takes to put yourself 'out there'. A big part of it is that you need to be willing to feel vulnerable. I've talked a bit about this when it is brought on by myself. But in this case, when it is momentarily brought on by others, it feels different and it's a bit harder to shake at first.

I've been a graphic designer for about 15 years and through all the ups and downs with client opinions, I have to say that my crafty or non-client work definitely requires thicker skin. The work I do for A Little Hut is so much more personal because I'm not following client requirements or expectations. I'm going with my gut and with what I feel is right. I focus on being true to my own ideas. I strive to make what is unique and that reflects my voice as a creative person. I'm not following anyone's rules.

In order to do all that, I need to allow space for the inevitable feeling of vulnerability that comes along with expressing myself through my work. It's uncomfortable, but it's also good to have around as a tool. It makes me be more of a perfectionist and it gives me less room to get away with mediocrity. If I'm completely honest, occasionally undercooked work slips by but, for the most part, the V word keeps it at bay. The more solid my ideas are, the lower the needle goes on the vulnerable-feeling gauge. At least that's how it works for me.

I think it's unrealistic to want the gauge to read empty. I'll settle for the halfway mark thank you very much.

55 comments:

  1. Man, that's tough. I have the same reactions to critiques of my academic work and they're usually constructive criticism. I just want to crawl into a hole and die. But you're right, you need to maintain confidence in your work and worth and take on board that which is useful and ignore that which isn't. I had a look at the two criticisms and I'd say that the really nasty one is just that - nasty for the sake of being nasty, written by one of life's unhappy people. Ignore it and everyone else who reads it will too. The second one is probably more useful because it simply relates to the audience you've pitched the book at. This person says they're an "artist" so one assumes they're disappointed because it wasn't more technically advanced. To a real beginner it's probably just as useful to know that it's not going to be too hard for them as what they'll learn from the two happy reviewers. Plus, I *like* simple, simple is good and to my mind far more stylish than complicated. :)

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  2. Goodmorning from Greece!
    First sorry for my inglish.
    Second i want to thank you for being a inspiration for me by reading your blog.
    I am new in bloging and i believe that you have wonderfull and simple ideas for all us to try at home.
    I cant read your book here but i really envy those who can.
    Dont be sad for something that you did with all your love and i believe that many peaple loved it.
    Have a very happy new year!

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  3. It's difficult to not take things to heart, no matter how much you try to talk yourself into not doing so. Just wanted to give you a cyber hug. Thanks for putting yourself out there from those of us who enjoy what you share.

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  4. I had a look at the comments as well, and agree with Jacqui. The nasty one is just that, nasty and without any argumentation so I doubt people will take it seriously. About the other one I would like to add, from the description of your book it is very clear that it is about simple, elegant projects, so the artist should not have expected anything complicated. His or her disappointment is entirely his or her own fault for not paying attention. He or she should have rated your book for what it is and not for what he/she hoped it to be despite the description.

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  5. I think that one thing most people have in common (even if they won't admit it) is that we want to be liked, loved, appreciated. Not only for what we are, but also for what we do. People are entitled to their feelings, but something some people don't seem to understand is that they can make their point without having to hurt other people... Constructive criticism is an art that needs to be practiced! I understand your feelings, but the harshest comment at the Amazon website is just mean, not constructive. I cheer for you! :-)

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  6. I have been lurking at your blog for a few months now, inspired by the simplicity and clean lines of your work - it is so accessible and zen - I thought "hey, this is something I might be able to do for myself" - don't let the haters stop you for a minute - you are a gifted, talented artist - they are really angry at the people who didn't know them well enough to give them Christmas presents they would enjoy - not you.

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  7. I think that there is one thing that is worse than to make something and get bad comments: that is doing nothing.
    I have not seen your book, but I am following your blog, and if it is the same standard in your book, it must be someboddy with a problem, who gave you bad comments.

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  8. I'm glad you aren't made of stone and anyone who says they are not bothered by criticism, whether constructive or abusive and nasty, is putting up a facade. We are human not robots.
    I don't have your book, yet but it is still on my wish list. And no we can't please everyone and that wasn't the intention of the book either.
    Even if another does find disappointment in the book there is a courteous way to make constructive criticism. Unfortunately, not everyone has tact or diplomacy. Two traits we should all strive for.
    I, for one, support your efforts and all you share and am so glad you had the opportunity to create a book.
    Always a pleasure,
    Collette xo

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  9. It's amazing to me the low levels people will stoop to. So sorry Patricia. As much as it stinks to have that "out" there, it sounds like you have put it into perspective to some extent. Your work always lifts me up b/c it's so apparent how your creative ideas and perfectionist tendencies translate into clean, fresh, purposefully simple/modern products. There will always be those who don't get it, but definitely don't change a thing!!!

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  10. One thing I've noticed about humans over the years is they can be a lot more forthcoming with their criticism than their compliments. Generally i find that only a small portion of people who are happy with a purchase will take the time to say something good about it, where as a much larger portion of people who are unhappy will vocalise their unhappiness!

    I am terrible at taking criticism myself, it cuts me to the core and I am tormented by it for weeks, months and years. But you have done an amazing thing - you have followed a dream and created something beautiful that others can share. I hope that you're able to stay focused on the positive and put this negativity behind you and that the good will outweigh the bad for you!

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  11. I think as I entered the craft world, I was helped by the fact that I've been a writer all my life, and this has meant dealing with TONS of rejections and processing what they mean. Do they mean I suck? Do they mean I should stop writing because everybody hates what I do? Nope. They mean that some people don't care for my particular kind of poem or essay--just as some people won't care for some of the things I make with my hands. But some people will LOVE them, and that's what it's really all about--finding MY audience. You've found yours, my friend--and we love what you make, book included!

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  12. good morning, looks like you have gotten lots of support here.Wouldn't it be nice it they all go on to buy the book and write a nice review! I love your book and am dying to make the cover bowls. I will try to write a review for you this week. I think they do help sell a book, but some are so off base. I only have one bad one and she said something like "all the sewing", well,obviously she did not read the book because there is no sewing in my lampshade book.

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  13. Wow. Good morning! I didn't expect to wake up to all your comments. Thank you so much for all your kind words.

    An unintended consequence is that I met some of you that had never commented before. It's so nice to meet you all.

    Thanks again for all your support! It really means a lot.

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  14. Hi from Australia
    well, I only found your work today & ordered your book from Amazon as it looks to be just what I'm looking for. I'm branching into some paper work myself and relate to your simple graphic style. Simple is always deceptively so in my opinion... doing simple WELL is not easy, despite what some may think.
    Just remember that you can't please everyone, but those who you do please will be more like you at heart.

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  15. If you'd like a bit more positive support, my 7-year old son and I made your bowl out of newspapers a while back, and it turned out great! A simple project with cool results. He's pretty proud that it can actually hold fruit and such.

    You can see a photo of how it turned out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/linkolisa/4248160152/

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  16. First of all, I'd like to tell you that I feel your pain! And secondly I want to thank you for writing this post and putting this topic into words so beautifully.

    I have recently had some mean criticism (certainly not constructive) come my way and it is hard to take. I have hesitated to speak of it because I am so fortunate and I didn't want to come off sounding whiny. But your statement about being vulnerable when you share your work, your LOVE, hits the nail on the head. As designers we have weathered a lot of criticism, but some is incredibly difficult to dismiss. We can't go back in time, we can't please everyone, we can only learn and move forward.

    Your true fans love you! Never forget. :)
    Betz

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  17. I second (or third or fourth) so many of the comments already made here. In addition to the reminder that you are human with soulful vulnerability, you so eloquently present your process of going from hurt to healing. This post is a great guide to any of us who struggle with the worth of our work and the constant drive to be the best we can be. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. - MK

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  18. i have arrived here via betz's re-tweet of your blog post, and have been to amazon to read the comments, they are harsh, very harsh. although i love the ease of ordering books from amazon and them arriving in the post in a couple of days, it is no replacement for browsing in a book shop and holding the book in your hand, and flicking through the pages before buying. take heart in that fact, and put it down to that your book simply wasn't right for them. they will be in a minority, there are many, many other crafters for whom your book will be well received.

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  19. "I'm not a huge paper crafter, but this projects are inspiring!"

    Fudge them, this is the kind of response you wanted, wasn't it? Reaching NEW people, not the old vets.

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  20. Hi Patricia,

    Such a well-written, thoughtful post. I know how hard criticism is, and understand completely about creative vs. client work.

    I've noticed that some people just like to lash out on the net. It's a power thing, I think. People forget that their words actually affect other people. I think those types of comments are more about the people who write them than those they so harshly criticize.

    My friend recently wrote a book, and on the first day is was available on Amazon, he received a really mean comment along with a one star rating. It was awful. The excitement of his book release was marred by someone who clearly had an axe to grind.

    Regardless of all of this, I admire your style (LOVE IT, IN FACT), and am so happy to have been introduced to your work.

    Your red riding hood piece hangs in my sons' room, and it makes me happy every time I see it.

    Have a great day!
    Nichole

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  21. What the heck, right? I mean, we're awesome, right? We do great work, right? People do enjoy what we do, right? Why is it that a few remarks of negativity can affect us so! Now, THAT is just NOT right. Insecurity is something we all contend with- especially when you bare your heart and soul- the good within you. I'd love to find the secret to resisting its power... only I don't think it can be learned. Here I go with some more analogies (seems to be my strong point these days): Adding a tiny bit of black to bright red and you get deep, dark red- taking the same bright red, in order to make pink you need a TON of white. Negativity and darkness are strong and affect instantaneously but positivity takes resources, time and nurturing. Most of us have this understanding. We can't change it- and there's certainly no fighting it- but one can overcome it. A single bump in the night can keep us awake with worry until the crack of dawn when we can finally settle into the rational and "known" or the distractions of the day. For most, this is the way of life. So, we have to know it's natural to hurt from negative comments- indeed, they are meant to hurt, even if thoughtlessly thrown out without regard for the person on the other end. We must take it, we can learn from it, it can make us stronger and help build up resistance- perhaps to the point where it doesn't sting so much... but its not likely it will ever be "OK".

    But all this aside, we're here to tell you that you're alright in our book, Patricia!
    Hope this statement gives you a lift into the light.

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  22. Your style is fresh! Many people don't understand the concept of high craft. Let them buy from Somerset and make paper dolls from Victorian images and dunce caps or crowns.

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  23. Looking at all your comments and having seen a lot of the reviews in blogland and having looked at your book, I think you hit your mark! Don't let a few naysayers hurt your feelings. Everything we do is not meant for everyone out there but you have filled a need for many of us. Keep creating. Julie

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  24. I know exactly what you mean. I'm a freelance copywriter, which I get paid for, and a creative writer, for which I do not. I can, and have, taken all sorts of "suggestions" and rewrites from clients for the copywriting. But a criticism of my creative work can really get my defenses up.

    I've read your book and I think it's lovely. I'm by no means a master paper crafter, so I really enjoy the accessibility of it as well as the notion that some of the projects can be jumping off points for perhaps something more elaborate that one might dream up.

    Here's to more positivity :)

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  25. I have to say the negative comments on Amazon struck me as being so petty they didn't influence me negatively at all. If the negative comments been constructive I would deem them to have more importance than these deserve. The positive comments were *so* glowing that although I had checked out your book in the past and added it to my wishlist (Christmas and a January birthday - so hard to wait to get that desired item) it made me excited and impatient to get the book all over again. Focus on those positive comments - they are so much more important!

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  26. I like your blog and I like your ideas.

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  27. While I've not been in your position exactly, the same sort of thing happens with scientific publications...and I understand the impact. I just wanted to say that the review system on both amazon and other online sites has been a topic of conversation between my husband and I lately (and not in a positive light!). And while there is the plain mean (like the second comment) that I don't understand and never will except that it is most likely based on jealously or insecurities, my biggest problem is with the first comment. I don't feel like 'style' should be reviewed. Everybody has different likes and dislikes and different styles. If the book wasn't what one expected (and this person obviously didn't read the description if he/she thought it was a papercut techniques book), then it's fine to say that, but if the execution, display, instructions etc were well done for that style of art, base ones stars on that.

    I don't comment often but I will add to the chorus that I love your style. I love the simplicity of it and I have several projects from your blog bookmarked to do when I have more time. You inspire me every time you post.

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  28. People can be so mean when they hide behind the screen of anonymity. They can also be too nice and praise out of guilt. Personally, I love your simple yet beautiful work and am grateful that you do what you love and are willing to share it with - well, literally, the world.

    Here's to being (V)ulnerable!

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  29. (I'm the one that deleted!) Just a little typing error. :-)

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  30. I have always thought that the beauty of your work was in the simplicity. I thought one of the comments was honest and helpful to shoppers which is what the comments are there for anyway; the other one was just a jerk and doesn't deserve any time spent worrying. I do understand about being vulnerable when you put your art out there. I make most gifts and it can be very hard to watch someone open them - just thinking they might not like it when you have put your heart and soul, not to mention, a lot of your valuable time into making it. It is always difficult, no matter how many positive comments you have gotten.

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  31. Artists have been grappling with critique since the beginning of, well, art. Please don't let any negative reviews burst your creative bubble. That's not what artistic expression is about. Some people just write to write. Their qualifications to judge are questionable at best, but they do love finding ways to express their opinions, don't they?

    You've obviously conquered much artistically and have a very strong following. Continue to do what you love as it inspires many of us. And I really think we outweigh the whiners.

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  32. My two cents: I love your book and your work! Keep doing things the way you do them!

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  33. you will notice no one found that one acidic review helpful. Because it was not helpful, just mean spirited. Folks will realize that. You are awesome, I'm sure your book is too. Thanks for putting yourself out there.

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  34. I bought your book at a bricks&mortar store in Canada, because I follow your blog. Yes, the projects appear simple. But simplicity is not a euphemism for boring or dull. They are accessible, well designed, beautifully executed and elegantly presented. They take the word 'craft' out of 'crafty' and in to 'craftmanship'. An excellent first book. Well done. On to the next!
    /Sharon

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  35. One of the commenters was clearly expecting something different. There is little you could do to alter that, and there is no reason to be upset (though it is, of course, understandable); every book has its own audience and others will not be partial to it. As you said, you selected simple crafts to meet the needs and interests of your target audience, not established artists, as the poster identified themselves as. Perhaps this is simply a comment on your effective instruction writing.
    The other commenter's hurtful and unhelpful comments need not be addressed.
    Keep up your inspiring work, published, blogged and otherwise shared.

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  36. Hi Patricia

    Just read your post and want to say that there are, very obviously, more people who rate your work and efforts than those who don't. I have my own blog and though nowhere near as creative and proficient as your own, I blog 'without obligation'. This means I can blog my thoughts or actions and I will not let any negativity put me off. Even the greatest creative artists receive negative critism, just be true to yourself at all times and you'll be okay. Keep at it girl!!

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  37. Again... thank you so much everyone. I wasn't expecting such a big response. Goes to show that I was right in not deleting my post, which I almost did as soon as I pressed publish.

    Your comments far outweigh anything negativity that may come my way. :)

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  38. Patricia,
    George m. Cohan, also an artist (singer, dancer, etc.) was quoted to say:I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right. (I hope I got my facts right here....)
    It is oh so painful to hear bad words, even from an anonymous person, and yet there is a positive side as well. someone actually took the time to look through your book and to comment about it. that in itself is a compliment.
    So far from what I've been following, good reviews far outweigh the bad ones - so please don't be discouraged - which you don't seem to be - it will be unfair to us who adore your work!
    Thanks for being so open and honest, it was a very touching entry.
    And please remember, whenever you need some words of encouragement, i will always happily offer them, as I'm sure many other like me will!
    Anat

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  39. I agree with everything that was said above and I won't reiterate it, but I wanted to add to what you said about having a simple accessible book that would appeal to a wide audience.

    The most wonderful thing about your work is the thoughtful design and elegance in the simplicity of the projects. Transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. That is great design and craft.

    <3 thanks for writing a great book and sharing your wonderful ideas!

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  40. I'm going to find your book, read it, and if I love it (which I no doubt will), I will write the most glowing gushy review on Amazon ever!

    In fact, I think all of your fans who love and adore you should go right now and do the same if they also found your book inspiring. :)

    Let's all go give Patricia some love today peeps!!!

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  41. Hi Patricia,

    I looked at the amazon comments.
    I'm not attaching much credibility to either source.
    When you put yourself out there, you open the door for lots of wonderful people and a few not so wonderful people. I write a tech column for a fairly busy site. It's not unusual for people to crawl out of the woodwork and say things they would probably never say face to face. Believe in yourself - you're a fine person and an excellent designer. And, from all the comments, there are many of us who support you and love your work.
    And the rest.......well, you can borrow my motto "Flames cheerfully ignored".

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  42. To add to my previous comment, I agree with so many commenters that those types of comments sting. You can't stop them but you can put them into perspective. I put them in my "ignore" box.

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  43. My sister is a an author. She writes mostly for children/young adults. She published an incredible novel for young teens, and it received award after award. I remember she told me that when she read a negative comment about her book from a TEN YEAR OLD, and she cried her eyes out. Because she's human. A super human, but human nonetheless. We out here in the cosmos enjoy the little glimpses of you that are sent out to the universe. Keep 'em coming.

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  44. i love the work you do... i've only recently found you but quickly became fond of you. and your book is perfect for people like me who are too affected by the vulnerability to put ourselves out there. it's people like you who will give people like me the confidence to find our own creative way :o)

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  45. I think you are right. Try not to let a couple negative comments get to you. I haven't read them, but you are amazingly talented and I'm sure most of your readers are just thankful to you for sharing so much, just as I am.

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  46. Your book and your style are amazing, don't change a thing!

    Elizabeth x
    www.prettysnug.blogspot.com

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  47. Hi there! You probably have enough comments & good wishes by now :) but I just want to tell you that I too, have placed yr book in my wish list. Greetings from Tokyo, Japan & have a wonderful weekend. It's already early Saturday morning here.

    PS : Let those petty ones try writing a tutorial, let a lone a book!

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  48. I just reread the Amazon comments. Maybe I'm nuts but they sure seemed like the comments of 2 people who had been too lazy to look into what they were buying when they bought your book. They were obviously not blog fans or they would know better. Even the title doesnt make it sound like a resource for graphic design artists. When you consider the number of books sold, the library copies checked out, well 2 bad reviews is nothing. I figure most people don't take the time to comment unless they are really grumpy about the situation. Lazy book buyers tend to be grumpy. So there you go, your book, not a great gift for the grumpy.
    It's a lovely book with lots of projects to share with those who consider themselves "not crafty" but want to make something beautiful that isn't fabric. How anyone can be hateful about your book or Ms. White's books is someone who hasn't taken the time to read and savor them.

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  49. Your blog has been an inspiration to me and although I haven't read your book, it's on my Amazon wish list! From one graphic designer by day/crafter by night, I'd encourage you to hold onto that inner voice that's speaking truth to you. Part of being creative (and real) in life takes vulnerability. But life is all the richer for it. With that comes highs and lows but would life really be the same if you weren't willing to risk? My hat is off to you for your creativity - keep digging in and being YOU.

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  50. You know, if your book wasn't true to your style then there would be tons of people who wouldn't like that either. It just goes to show that people out there think you are so huge and famous and "untouchable" that they probably do not even consider that you might be a real person! Just rest in the fact that you are awesome, your work is amazing, and there are people all over the world being inspired by you!!
    Big hugs!!!

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  51. I just want to once again thank you all for all your kind and generous words. They really mean a lot and they give me a lot of energy as I move forward. You're all wonderful. :)

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  52. Well Patricia, I can't disagree more with the negative reviews so it's inspired me to post my own one. I did notice that one of the reviewers likes to slam other people's books (and also likes to slam people who disagree with him/her) so I think it says much more about him/her than it does about your book. Keep up the fantastic work!

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  53. Dear Patricia

    I recently stumbled onto your blog and I'm definitely enjoying reading it and being inspired by the things you've created.

    I also read the comments on Amazon. Someone who can say such a negative thing as 'your book is not worth the paper it was printed on' is just blowing hot air and is showing their worst side to everyone. There is no point in spending any energy on such a comment.

    Please continue writing and creating, take the rough with the smooth and always look for that silver lining. The weather is always unpredictable ;D

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  54. Hearing criticism is so tough...so many people can't bear it so they don't do anything.

    I'm an author, too, and I've gotten some rude comments and some constructive ones. What I try to remember is the good stuff...the people who liked my book and what I had to offer. We can all get something out of everything, some people are just too negative to see it and can't accept things for what they are.

    Check out my book...http://wwww.creativelyselfemployed.com and the blog. The book discusses some of the issues that creative people face. It may help! I really appreciated your post and am glad you didn't delete it!!

    Just don't leave me a bad review, or I'll cry:)

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  55. Ug! Putting yourself out there is so hard! And, HUGE congrats to you for doing it - and on your wonderful book.

    I actually just left my honest opinion (which is very positive) - to balance a bit, if that's possible.

    Keep your chin up - and know that you are courageous. Not only that, but you create and inspire beautiful things. I am saddened that these buyers didn't get what they hoped for - I'd be happy to find new, grateful homes for their copies - because I can think of several people I would give copes to!

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I welcome all your comments and read every one of them. If you have a specific question I will be happy to answer it!

Thank you so much for visiting!