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Wisdom

Julien Baker

Musician

Julien Baker is a musician from Memphis, Tennessee. She will release her sophomore album, Turn out the Lights, via Matador records on October 27th. She previously spoke with The Creative Independent about learning how to articulate joy in your work.

For young musicians just beginning to share their music with other people and the world, how do you take in feedback productively? Is there a way to be mindful of constructive criticism while also protecting your heart from the stuff that would hurt you creatively or keep you from putting yourself out there?

The way that I always try to engage with feedback is by being careful to differentiate between pride and confidence. It’s intimidating to share something as personal as art, and it’s challenging not to be discouraged or defensive about the things we create. I think there are few traits more useful than humility, but having healthy assuredness in our art is crucial, and self-confidence can actually help to approach situations more humbly.

For young musicians just beginning to share their music with other people and the world, how do you take in feedback productively? Is there a way to be mindful of constructive criticism while also protecting your heart from the stuff that would hurt you creatively or keep you from putting yourself out there?

I think that having confidence in the work you create is different than believing you are infallible or perfect—it’s merely believing that you and the art have value. When you create something and are able to believe it has value before it’s praised or criticized, it minimizes the fear associated with negative feedback. To know that the worth of your work is not diminished by its imperfections is liberating because it means that criticisms are not insults, and there’s nothing to lose by making a mistake. The fear of failure can be dispelled when we don’t anticipate possible mistakes as failure, but regard them as opportunities to improve. Conversely, believing in our work allows us to disagree with feedback about our art and preserve its authenticity—just because a suggestion is made doesn’t always mean it serves the art. The input of others is an important resource for an artist’s growth, but always serving others’ expectations can lead to art seeming artificial or sterile, and it can be just as detrimental as being too prideful.

For young musicians just beginning to share their music with other people and the world, how do you take in feedback productively? Is there a way to be mindful of constructive criticism while also protecting your heart from the stuff that would hurt you creatively or keep you from putting yourself out there?

The advice I would give about taking feedback is ultimately just about balance: be humble enough to always listen to criticism, and confident enough not to always take it; be willing to compromise but not afraid to fight for your art.

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