I’ve been working my way through Creativity, Inc. Written by the president of Pixar, Ed Catmull, the book chronicles the rise of the animation giant. Pixar is known for top quality films and an unrelenting passion for high-quality art. Catmull is central to Pixar’s story, of course.
He has a lot to say about the concept of ego, but most of it can be boiled down to the statement above.
A big part of Pixar’s culture is rooted in candid feedback, regardless of rank, department or involvement in the specific project. Basically, everyone there is committed to making the best films possible. Constructive criticism is a necessary part of that process.
As he tells Pixar’s story, it’s hard not to think, “Well, yeah. Obviously.” And then someone reads something I wrote and points out a potential weak spot, and I immediately think, “Hmph. Clearly you don’t get it.”
But in those moments, I’m the one who doesn’t get it.
Do you want your art to be great? Do you want to produce the best stuff you can possibly produce? Then you have to be okay with candid feedback. In fact, you need to seek it out.
Don’t just ask for feedback from people who will tell you your work is amazing because, of course it’s amazing. You did it. Don’t seek out consistent nay-sayers, either. Seek out people who aren’t shy about giving you frank reactions.
What do they like? What don’t they like? What feels right? What feels wrong?
And whatever they say, put your ego on the shelf. Listen and then, from a non-defensive place, consider their input.
Candid feedback is the only kind of feedback that helps artists grow. If your ego can’t handle that, it won’t invalidate your talent, but it may keep your talent from developing further.