I play online co-op shooters. If you know me, this is weird. I’m generally a ‘bumble about solving easy puzzles and picking flowers in Skyrim’ person. If you don’t care for video games, I apologize and you can skip ahead to this little guy when he next appears:
…so I can lead to the metaphor I’m stealthily building. Speaking of stealth, I don’t like to fight. When I was starting out playing battle royale games I would primarily hide in bushes and end up at the end of the match totally bad at fighting, but alive. There would usually be a super aggressive player who had made it there by walking over the bodies of the fallen only to end up in a large field with his arch enemy nowhere to be found. It was me in a tiny bush five feet away, wearing an outfit made of bush, waiting to be killed. Others may shoot you, but I would break your will.
It’s called a survival game because by this logic, you just survive really good. That’s what I told myself. Also I know my failings (shooting well). However, I can sneak about undetected like a badass. So I did, until one day a man was on microphone with his two kiddos, and there I was in their team. The match started and quickly after I stealthed myself into a bush to take point with my sniper, he goes, “Oh no! None of that hiding sh**. I’m trying to play a fighting game with my kids and we are gonna fight.”
At first I was like, ‘I’m about to get really sassy and stubborn, as is online tradition,’ and then I stopped. I realized this must be boring for the rest of the team. I’m not expecting congratulations on understanding the function of a team, but I really hadn’t thought on it until this man gave me the tough talk peppered with, probably, a frustrating day. I couldn’t get better at shooting if I was in a bush. I had to realize this man is being sassy for his kiddos. And so I walked out of that bush and instead I tried to win the game like I had other teammates. I was shot right after one of us threw a bomb at our feet (not me this time) and crawled into a hidey hole as I was indisposed, so I could be revived. But instead one of the kids picked me up and ran with me over his shoulder, as we forgot the storm was coming in. He then threw me in front of him in an effort to keep me out of the storm just in time, if there wasn’t a cliff right there. I fell down the cliff face and I did not make it. I thought this was hilarious, so I turned on mic and said, “I appreciate you tried.” because I really truly did. That kid was a hero. My point is…
Empathy is as much a survival skill as fighting, though my team did die gloriously. I still say I got better that day. And I continued to get better because I became part of a team. Even if that same team had too much sugar and learned to curse five days ago, I holstered my ego and I threw myself at the great unknown. I didn’t know these people, but it was like New York. If you can stack a team with any person who wants to play Fortnite and at least do better because you are a team…you can put it on a resume, because you can make it anywhere.
But why am I talking about Fortnite and surviving battle?! Because art, of course!
Creatives I know are sensitive and have a good handle on empathy. Empathy allows people to fill in gaps of emotion to better handle and work with other people. To understand behavior, and to fill in needs that are lacking with their own skills. Maybe it helps me understand not everyone wants to hear about Fortnite, so I’ll put a somewhat creepy faced bookmark here to let them skip it. I think creative people have a predilection for observing and connecting with the unsaid emotions of others. Maybe because we must recreate structures, characters, worlds and ideologies from just our memories, filters and imagination. So we have a huge gap we traverse that requires forced seeing. I’m not someone who has dedicated my life to psychology or philosophy so I’m guessing on this. But I want to think on it to better understand and relate. Bam! empathy. Here comes the inevitable. There will be people that tell you they don’t like your work. Some of them will be sassy. Some had too much sugar and got online. Whatever they say, it may hurt your feelings a little. (clearly speaking from experience.)
My gut reaction was to break out some sass too, or dismiss it or maybe explain it away. But one thing I learned from playing as a team is that all emotions are valid, because if you feel emotions, they got there somehow. How you express it is a personal thing, but when someone says a thing that is pointed, just take the most important parts and choose to leave the rest. It will help you get better and you will have to decide to forge it into a tool to grow and not a tool to bind you or stunt your progress. That’s the thing you can control. Growth is a risk. You take it and you may fail, but you’ll learn something. Art is not physics or math. It is an emotions based market. Also money, social impact and the constant input of what is historic. It is hugely complex and what it boils down to is there are no answers or rules but the team in which you subside and how well you contribute to this team.
Someone can say your work is bad and it is only as weighted as how much you let that stop you from growing or how much you choose to use it to adjust and get better. Not letting it stop you isn’t a bee line to your goals, either. You also lay those out. Do you want to have money to live on or to make an impact? Do you want to be known or make something new? Do you step out and realize you fit into a need you didn’t think you could fill?
Art isn’t a bubble. In my case, I acknowledge art isn’t my main goal even. From my work I’ve branched to many projects and my main goal is to understand more about why people walk this path, and what truly matters when it comes to being part of that walk. I don’t know yet.
But I liked saying, “I’m glad you tried.” I like that when I took a risk to further growth for the community I was able to take the words of one person and hear them even if they were peppered after a frustrating day. Now I can see the failings I had that were clear issues and use that to adjust my work where I thought it would help most in the future. I chose to leave the rest. I feel good about this and I hope the process of making this tool can be conveyed in this Fortnite metaphor. I wouldn’t have seen these issues if I wasn’t forced to suddenly take a risk knowing I was new. Even if I may be thrown off a cliff sometimes this is only a gesture of good intentions. I can say I’ll be at the next match and I’ll most likely never hide again. In any case…all roads lead to Fortnite metaphors.
1 thought on “Battle Ready Empathy: a guide to receiving criticism”
Life. A bigger than me constantly rolling granite ball. I can jump on top and run on it or try to out run it.
I enjoyed your blog.
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