A few weeks ago, I was listening to a song from a new artist and most of the lyrics were directed at ‘Haters’, like a lot of songs seem to be these days. I cracked a joke about how his career hadn’t even started and he’d already joined the ‘everybody hates me because I am successful’ brigade.
I am in no way saying that there aren’t people who just have a strange discomfort with the success of others or suffer from a chronic case of the pull people down syndrome, but I wonder if we aren’t at times too flippant to throw up the enemies of progress, stealers of destiny, Awon Aye, or the classic haters card. Especially when other people aren’t in your corner or things aren’t simply going the way we want.
I admit, I too have been guilty of throwing one or two of those out there, when I put forward an idea or my work and it doesn’t quite go the way I expected. But I find that it isn’t exactly healthy waltzing around with the hater chip on the shoulder when there could be other reasons for rejection and criticism beyond the obvious.
They may just not get it
I remember trying to turn a short story I had written into a sort of short film. I was completely inexperienced and decided to seek the opinions of a few film maker friends of mine by sending them the story to read. One responded by saying it was ‘unfilmable’. Another said, ‘whoever advised you to do this hates you’ and the third just wasn’t interested.
That was enough feedback for me to throw that idea back into the pool that it came from, but for some reason I felt quite strongly about the idea and decided to ask the thoughts of another friend whose work I admired. She encouraged me to pursue it and I frighteningly did and it turned out ok with great reception. Whilst chatting with another friend Ms J about the barrage of criticism the idea experienced which led to a lot of self doubt that almost buried the idea, I started entertaining the thought that could my friends have become ‘enemies of progress or truncators of destiny?
Ms J made me realise that they all had something in common- they were all men so perhaps couldn’t identify with the character’s struggle in the kind of way that I would have hoped or expected. So consequently didn’t see the relevance of the story and worse still wouldn’t see a reason to turn it into anything visual.
Some people may not connect with your ideas, sometimes they may not even understand it and at the risk of sounding ignorant or not very knowledgeable, they don’t say very much in response.
It just might not be for you
For about two years I had applied for journalism fellowships in places like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and USC. For two years straight, I got rejected. I had already started thinking to myself I am clearly not good enough for this thing so what is the use. I’m sure somebody else would have thought their grandfather’s people in the village had put a hex on them considering that I felt ready, prepared and had met every metric to be considered for at least one of them. Coincidentally, an executive from one of the universities reached out to me and informed me that although I was part of the top ten candidates being considered, I wouldn’t make the final cut because the Fellowship Board was only giving consideration to those within the traditional journalism space while my work was predominately digital.
Find yourself a better, honest and constructive critic
There is something a lot of people do in the name of criticism. They poke at all the holes, disregard the parts that are actually good and then leave you hanging without a solution. You don’t want sycophants or ‘yes men’. At the same time you don’t want people who never see the good in anything. The purpose of criticism is to get better. So for me I find critics that can point out the lapses and the gaps and even suggest better ways for forward movement, or at least challenge me to think in ways which I haven’t done before. The honest truth is that I remain the final arbiter so will still make the sole decision of what I want to do or how I intend for things to go.
Take it as risk analysis
Sometimes, what we consider as ‘Beef and hate’ should be seen as risk analysis. It just means beware, be informed and if you intend to go ahead, know why you are doing it in the first place. It can be easy to get carried away with certain ideas and decisions without seeing the full picture. People showing you the other side of the coin that may seem pessimistic should be seen as a source of checks and balances so you don’t get too carried away without being fully knowledgeable about the risks involved.
I remember conceiving this idea for an interview series with people in the art and culture world. From the painters and photographers to the writers and performance artists. I sought a few opinions and everything I got was in the negative. Firstly that Nigerians are not interested in people who aren’t celebrities, so there would be very little to no audience. Then there was just a whole what is the point or use? It shook me for a bit and meant that I kept the idea on the back burner for a year. A year later I revisited the project and I have started recording. Those thoughts helped me redefine my motive, manage my audience viewing expectations and consequently made me feel more prepared for that journey
Timing is everything
Whether you are ahead of your time or it isn’t quite your time yet, one of the many principles I live by was handed down to me by my older brother who always said to me that ‘when your fruit is ripe it will sell’. Sometimes it just isn’t the right time for certain things and if feels as though everyone is in the way of your progress either through excessive criticism or all round rejection. I personally see it as time to prepare or as our people say time to wet the ground. I realise that a lot of what I did and felt misunderstood about was only preparation for a certain time. Even right now, there are things I do that make absolutely no sense to anyone, but myself, but somehow I know it is just a matter of time.
Life is already difficult as it is. You don’t need to create imaginary battles or turn yourself into a paranoid freak because you think the world is against you. I also feel that when you carry that around with you, you easily forget your original intentions and motives. All you find yourself doing is trying to prove a point to people, which is just giving them a little too much power over you without even realising.