Blog / 2023 / Mistake #13: Not Listening Enough

December 20, 2023

Last spring, I celebrated my twentieth artiversary. To mark the moment I’ve been blogging about everyday mistakes, things like worrying about being too sensitive, because, if I had to point to one reason why I’m still an artist after all this time, it’s that I refused to let these slipups sidetrack me.

Today’s installment of the Flawful Festivities is all about the importance of letting other people discuss your art, instead of always saying your piece.

I learned this particular trick from going to writers’ groups. Often in these groups, when you’re receiving feedback about your work, you aren’t allowed to speak at all. Everybody gets to tell you what they think and ask questions about anything that confused them, and only once they’ve had their say are you allowed to open your mouth.

It’s at once desperately frustrating and unexpectedly magical.

When your putative expertise about your work is taken out of the equation, other people suddenly feel empowered to explain it for you. You get to listen in on whole conversations about what people think you meant. And then it’s up to you to decide if you’re satisfied with how they see your art or if you want to do something different.

[video transcript]

The artist statement I refer to in the video is here, but, when I think about it, they helped me with this one as well. Basically, whenever my writing is at its best, it’s because I’m lucky enough to have these lovely people in my life!

coloring book page showing a marching band made up of cats
coloring book version of Oh No! Thoughts Won’t Go.

This coloring book page version of one of my paintings is part of a mental health workbook I’m making. That project was made possible by the 78 people who supported it on Kickstarter, but behind those 78 are six individuals:

  1. a librarian with a musical giggle and a freaky talent for titling my paintings, including the one that this coloring page is based on
  2. a former marketing exec who’s also a full-time adorable weirdo
  3. an engineer who writes profoundly silly and delightfully deep novels
  4. a history professor whose sense of humor is rivaled only by Death Valley in its dryness
  5. a retired middle school teacher who, maybe unsurprisingly, understands how much I enjoy fart jokes
  6. a photographer who reminds me that being a lifelong seeker is the best possible way to spend my time on this planet

Together, these six are the dream team. They’re my favorite writers’ group I’ve ever been a part of.

Not only did these six people help shape the artist statement for the series that the workbook is based on, but they gave me vital feedback on the Kickstarter before I launched it and on the marketing of the campaign as I worked to meet the funding goal.

Most of the time, my brain feels like the marching band of cats in this image, but, when my writers’ group hums my music back to me, my mental kitties finally start to work together.


Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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