No artist puts out 100% bangers; we all skip tracks. Shakespeare dropped Othello, King Lear and Macbeth–all-time classics–within a two-year period. In between, he wrote All’s Well That Ends Well and Timon of Athens, widely considered among his worst.
Any prolific creator will have incredible highs mixed in with plenty of filler. Just like a parent doesn’t know their baby is ugly¹, we are too close to the ideas we generate to understand how others will receive them.
Seeking feedback is one mechanism that can help us judge our work more accurately while in draft stage, but it is an enabler that can easily masquerade as a deterrent if we feel the need to incorporate all of it. No matter how much we may try to release perfect ideas into the world, no amount of individual feedback will supersede the wisdom of a crowd.
That’s why I take a “yes, and” approach to giving and receiving feedback. Most feedback is thoughtful and sharpens our thinking; when I first started getting feedback it felt like my old conditioning coach pushing me to give just a little bit more than I thought I could. Maybe we can always explain ourselves just a little bit better, but a crucial and often overlooked prerequisite to sharing great ideas is sharing a lot of ideas. Since we can’t know how the crowd will evaluate an idea, to worry about perfection is to worry about something outside of our control. We can, however, control building a habit of publishing.
Since I realized this, I’ve tried to build a habit of sharing imperfect ideas, incorporating basic feedback before I publish but fully expecting the work to evolve over time. This means a bias to publish, knowing that I can revisit my idea later taking more feedback into account. I adapt my thinking and my writing like a new software release: my 1.0 thought on the topic and my 2.0 evolution on the topic.
Thoughtful feedback can spot gaps in your thinking, confusing or illogical sentence structure, or a lazy reliance on cliches. But it can also act as a deterrent to sharing your ideas, and sharing your ideas is the only way you can learn if you’ve roared Macbeth or whispered Timon of Athens.
1 Most. Apparently TikTok has made the ugly baby challenge a thing.