I often say that any fool can be a critic, but only a few, rare individuals have the talent and perseverance to become creative artists. Also, I am astonished by the fact that so many people believe that professional artists actually care about what those critics think. Let me tell you a secret: Many of us, me among them, don’t. And no, it’s not because we’re arrogant. It is simply because of that mechanism that you’ll find in any sensible creative artist of some experience: We learn to ignore negative feedback.
The most common sort of negative feedback is what I choose to call «loser branding». I have encountered this quite often up through the years and it goes far beyond my artistic and professional life. I believe loser branding is extremely widespread in Norway — far more than in other European countries. We even have a name for it: The Jante Law. Norwegian society loves the mediocre man or woman who experiences success, while the hard working and the genious are generally shunned. Loser branding is the way to deal with those who will not accept their place in the social hierarchy, and it’s all about telling you that whatever you’re trying to do, you won’t make it.
I am the least collectivist person I know, and that may be why I have been loser branded on quite a few occasions. When I was in my early teens, I wanted to bench press 120 kgs. I was told I would never make it. So I bench pressed 120 kgs. I then wanted to win the Norwegian Nationals in powerlifting, drug free and with one leg almost an inch shorter than the other. I was told I would never make it. So I won the Norwegian Nationals, drug free and with one leg shorter than the other. I then wanted to write a novel and have that novel published. I was told I would never make it. So I wrote a novel and had it published. I was then told I could never make a living as a novelist. So … Well, I’m sure you get the idea. I love proving negative people wrong.
Now, ignoring negative feedback is not the same as ignoring constructive criticism. The latter is valuable, but sadly quite rare. Probably because giving someone constructive feedback takes skill — it’s not something every idiot can or should do. For instance, an idiot’s opinion of my novels is about as interesting and important to me as a Kardashian butt cheek, except the latter has some substance to it. Also, I hate to see people just starting out as writers being shot down by the naysayers. Beginners need both positive and constructive feedback, the kind of feedback that helps them develop and grow as artists.
So whenever someone tells you that you won’t make it, please do not listen to them. There is nothing special or sensible about such an attitude. It’s a defeatist, cowardly and sad attitude. I want every reader of this blog to believe that anything is possible. Life will test you anyway, so why should we settle with anything less than the extraordinary? Reach far. Walk that extra mile. Keep working on that project of yours. And don’t you dare give up.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen
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