How to Critique a Creative Person

How to critique a creative person.As a creative person, I’ve received both good and bad criticism. At its worst, it kills the creative spirit. I know. I quit playing piano when I was fourteen because of negative criticism. At its best, it fosters creativity. It pushes the creative person to try something new, to explore different facets, to embrace the terror of the unknown. That criticism may be harsh at times, but it’s given in a spirit of good will. It isn’t given simply to be given.

The question becomes how to interact with and to give criticism to creative people. Unless you work with them regularly, it can be difficult to know what approach to take. When is encouragement needed? When is harshness required? Yes, creative people are people, but they tend to have some qualities and characteristics that differentiate their responses from the so-called left-brain people’s. How does one begin to critique a creative person?

  • Don’t tell a creative person he or she is defensive. Many creative people can be defensive about their work (and anything else). Unless they’re completely oblivious to themselves, they already know this fact. Don’t preface your critique by reminding them that they’re defensive. They’ll go into full-blown defense mode and won’t hear a word you’re saying.
  • Don’t treat a creative person like he or she is “sensitive.” Most creative people want to improve. They understand that harsh criticism is necessary for growth. They also know when you’re skirting the truth because you’re afraid of hurting their feelings. Some creative people may want to be treated with kid gloves, but most don’t.
  • Do give a creative person some space. Don’t expect creative people to respond to the criticism immediately unless they’re working under a deadline. They need time to absorb the information that has been given. They need to work through which criticisms have merit and which ones undercut what they are trying to accomplish with their work.
  • Do provide additional feedback, especially if asked for it by the creative person. Creative people who want to improve are going to come back to you for feedback after making some changes to the work. Respond honestly. If you don’t have time to respond to their questions, say so. Don’t ignore their questions or slough them to the side. Such a response can be even more detrimental than negative criticism.

Do you work with a creative person? How do you critique him or her?


  1. I love these tips. LOL! So many stereotypes about creatives exist because they’re just plain true, but so many are just way off. Thanks for clearing things up for those folks who need a bit of schooling. 😉
    What say you, @amyshoultzphd

    •  @texascopywriter  @amyshoultzphd I always say that stereotypes exist for a reason, but it’s wrong to presume that a person fits a certain stereotype because of what he or she does. Take the flaky artist one. Many people assume that all artists are flaky, but it just isn’t true. Many of the artists I know are some of the most organized people I’ve ever met.

      •  @Erin F.  @amyshoultzphd I completely agree with you on both counts: stereotypes exist for a reason because they’re true! BUT, the flaky artist stereotype came about to describe a certain “type” of artist.
        Creative people run the gamut when it comes to their crafts: writing, copywriting, feature journalism, videography, photography, musician, and yes…the Van Gogh-esque strangely eccentric artiste. 
        That’s where people go wrong with applying the stereotypes. They fail to see the subtle categories. Even plastic surgeons and other types of physicians can be considered creatives. 

        •  @texascopywriter  @amyshoultzphd I’ve sometimes thought that the word “creative” needs to be redefined. People are creative in their own ways. I would consider my brother, who’s studying to be a coastal engineer, “creative.” He can design things and understands things that I can’t even begin to comprehend. He does everything with math equations, but I’ve heard the way he and other smart folks like him talk about what they do. They sound just like me when I’m talking about writing or literature.