15 Oct

Be a creator, not a critic

Years ago I made an important choice: I will always be a creator, not a critic.

This may sound like the obvious choice, but in today’s culture we often reward the critic with just as much attention and fame. Far more than they deserve.

As more creators are daring to create, they often don’t meet the standards we think they should. Whether it’s a beginner whose skill doesn’t yet match their taste, or the professional who makes a misstep. There’s someone waiting to criticize.

That criticism gets attention. It’s usually witty, accurate, cutting, and possibly even deserved. But most of all, it’s unnecessary.

When a friend of ours was being attacked by Twitter mobs for a misinterpreted tweet, Ryan Delk said to me, “I decided years ago that I would always be on the side of the creator.”

That one line has stuck with me. I will always be on the side of the creator.

That means not mocking your product idea. Not complaining about bugs, typos, or poor design. But instead understanding that you dared to create and that should be encouraged. Especially if it isn’t yet to a high standard or your full potential.

Constructive criticism is important for growth. As creators we need to get better at opening that door for those who truly want to push us to be better, not just mock those who misstep.

Don’t be critic with an opinion on every new thing. Instead choose to be the creator, building the future.




It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


—Theodore Roosevelt


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8 Responses to “Be a creator, not a critic”

  1. Thanks for writing this, Nathan. Loved it.

    I tend to be a critic every now and then – this post helped me become much more aware of that tendency.

    Thanks again!

  2. Loved this. Having recently been at the center of some criticism, it SUCKS. Especially when it’s super public and in a way that trying to say something would just make it worse. It made me really question a lot of things I read that are critical and also understand just how true it is that everything you read isn’t true online. Needed to read this today!

  3. I fear you are confusing critic with troll. Trolls are useless. Critics are absolutely needed and should be welcomed.

    Some potentially useful links:

    The Lost Art of Criticism: https://www.lifehack.org/646592/premium-the-lost-art-of-criticism
    Hating vs Criticism: https://djbooth.net/features/2017-02-02-hating-vs-criticism

  4. I would never critique a creative of any genre, and the quote by Theodore Roosevelt is spot on in describing how important it is never to hold the critic in the form of recognition.

    The critique of another should always be accompanied by constructive ideas, and or words of wisdom to help and never to destroy the creative idea or thought.

  5. What a great article. I’m not sure if the critic will ever know the fear that can be associated with creation, or what it feels like to put it all out there only to have someone tear it down.

  6. This is a great post for introspection. Is it really that criticism is a bad thing? Or is it the delivery of criticism that is at the core? I’m pondering the use of criticism as a relative of feedback. And by doing that, I have to believe that feedback is a good thing. If we don’t know better, we can’t do better. And without criticism/feedback, this company would no longer be called ConvertKit.

    Additionally, as it relates to delivery, there are those who have the best intentions in a possibly helpful criticism/feedback but their delivery (tone, word choice, etc.) is WAY off.

    Criticism can be tough especially when one is simply trying to do their best and just add value in his/her best light. So then to receive what may seem like tough criticism from mostly those who don’t even know you in the first place and perhaps without true basis, that takes it to another level.

    An approach that helped me to silence my inner critic is to propose solutions that can help. This happened to me just today when I decided to clear my schedule to offer my help to my 6 year old niece’s soccer team after a recent loss. I soon learned that the coach is a non-athlete who isn’t knowledgeable about soccer but was asked by her boss to serve as a volunteer coach. By offering to share my knowledge and experiences, she quickly welcomed the help. This is proving to be a much better alternative than me sitting on the sidelines whining about a coach’s methods.

  7. I think that you should send this to all social media sites, so they can add it to their TOS (terms of service) and people should be banned when they are not cooperating and acting against this rule :D

  8. Man, absolutely! I totally agree. Besides, we have enough critics around and a severe shortage of creators.

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