Not everyone is going to like the thing you made, and that’s okay

I recently worked on an upcoming video game from Double Fine, called Broken Age. I got to play a really fun character, and I had a super good time working with one of my favorite directors in the industry.

Double Fine announced my participation in a video that includes some shots of me recording, and the response from people who chose to respond was overwhelmingly positive.

Earlier this morning, the following Tweets appeared in my timeline, back to back:

Perspective

When I was younger, I would have completely ignored the first one, and obsessively focused on the second one to the point of feeling shitty about myself. Part of having Imposter Syndrome is believing that people who praise you are dupes, while the people who criticize you can actually see through everything. But the thing is, the guy who isn’t thrilled has every right to feel that way, and I don’t take it personally. Not everyone digs what I do and what I bring to a project, and that’s totally cool. At the same time, it’s also pretty awesome that a lot of people do dig what I bring to a project, and that is also cool.

Consider this, about having perspective on criticism: If you enjoyed making a thing, and you’re proud of the thing you made, that’s enough. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. And sometimes, a person who likes your work and a person who don’t will show up within milliseconds of each other to let you know how they feel. One does not need to cancel out the other, positively or negatively; if you’re proud of the work, and you enjoyed the work, that is what’s important.Don’t let the fear of not pleasing someone stop you from being creative.

The goal isn’t to make something everyone will love; the goal is to get excited, and make a thing where something wasn’t before.

48 thoughts on “Not everyone is going to like the thing you made, and that’s okay”

  1. Absolutely! That’s the perfect attitude. Like the old Ricky Nelson song says, “You can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself.” For the record, though: I never saw or heard you give a bad performance. Even when Wesley Cusher was at his most “save the ship weekly” annoying, the fault was in how he was written and not how he was played. From STAND BY ME to this week’s BIG BANG THEORY you always make things real. What more could we ask of an actor? Your name on any project is a plus.

  2. Very good and mature way of looking at things, Wil. I love most of what you do, and think you are an outstanding artist in general.

    Related: just as not everyone will love something that you do, not everyone is going to like the same things you like, either. I find it funny when people get appalled for not liking something that they really enjoy.

    For example, a long time ago, at Wootstock in Portland, I told you I was a huge fan of Star Trek and your character on Star Trek. You told me that I should check out Doctor Who. So I did. Wasn’t my cup of tea. But some people get all caught up in their fandom that they actually think there is something wrong with the fact that I don’t like Doctor Who. Silly people.

    Anyway, glad you’ve overcome the Voice of Self Doubt and Prove to Everyone that Quitting Star Trek Wasn’t A Mistake, or at least quieted them down.

  3. I love that you’ve connected these feelings with Imposter Syndrome. I think it fades with age and experience, but is something creatives must fight always.

  4. Never intend to please anyone and when you do it’s a bonus. Our passions are personal therapy, the product can fail spectacularly in reception, but that is beside the point, it is all about the satisfaction acquired by our commitment to production. I agree; if you loved doing it, it’s already a success, putting it out there is just a technicality where good or bad evaluations of it are ultimately superfluous.

  5. I could just turn the yelp I gave when I saw the video into a cough because I was at work. Of course this news does not make or break the game so I am indeed wondering what mental state you would have to be in to voice the second opinion. He would probably not have even noticed who you are lending your voice in the game had it been announced. Ah well, haters gotta hate or something.

    One thing to remember is that disdain is not criticism. It is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes… oh sorry, that was contradiction. Anyway, the five minutes are up. Good morning.

  6. In some ways, it makes me sad when you talk about Imposter Syndrome because your work – in its many forms – is so consistently great and reflects how you sincerely and wholeheartedly engage in the creative process. But in other ways, it’s beautiful that you’ll talk about those feelings of self-doubt because it serves to reassure other creative people who are less successful or still struggling to find the place where they can be as authentic and expressive as you are. It’s wonderful that you were able to put the second comment in context: not everyone enjoys the same things (for example, I dislike both poker and cheesecake, which I’m told is nearly as crazy as someone not being impressed by a particular actor’s participation in a video game).

  7. Well, I personally like your work very much, and am excited that you will be a part of the game.

    However, even if I really hated you for some reason, that still would not really affect my impression of the game.

    Good for you for being able to concentrate on the positive.

  8. A producer pal of mine always reminds me, “If people both love and hate a particular work of yours, you know you’re onto something. You want that. It really means you’ve done good work. It’s when people are ambivalent that you’ve got a problem.”

    So…good work!

    1. A friend of mine coined another quote, barely apropos here, but here goes anyway: “Don’t worry about other people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to shove them down their throats.”

  9. There´s only one thing i “hate” about your work…. it teared a huge hole into my wallet, all because of the wonderful work you put into Tabletop on Geek and Sundry!

  10. Well put, and something I’ve always had to keep in mind myself.

    (And as an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the need to call your attention to the negativity by making sure you’re @ mentioned–that’s a very particular form of jackassery that Twitter seems to have made more widespread.)

  11. Actually trying not to cry here.
    This is something I will print out and put in my work space.
    I’ve made a habit of allowing dream killers to take the love I have for the thing I invented or wrote or painted or sculpted & filled with passion & pain.
    If I love it, that’s more than enough.

  12. Good to remember. I’ve been trying, trying, trying to finally finish a complete draft of a novel I started years ago, and (probably thanks to my lovely depression) this week I’ve been feeling discouraged and doubting myself, thinking that I’m just wasting my time because no one’s going to want to read it even if I do finish the crazy thing. Creative pursuits are hard, and there’s so much front-end time slogging away without any guarantees. It helps a little to remind myself that every creative project has worth, and it’s worth slogging through the tough, uncooperative parts for the benefit of the parts that I love.

  13. This is the main reason I have given up on writing again and again and again. Le sigh … :(

    Having social anxiety and the drive to share my creations (almost in equal parts) is a desperately pathetic mix. No wonder Hemingway drank so much

  14. Definitely agree. People will always hate. It’s the best thing about humanity. If we all agreed on everything and just did the same thing, it’d be an extremely boring world.

    Some people feel like they need to troll to get their point across. A better response is to just move on. Don’t like something? Congrats, you have an opinion, feel free to find someone else with the same opinion somewhere else ’cause your opinion that just says you hate something doesn’t help with anything.

    To me, people who have to make it known they just don’t like something have no use in the world. Don’t like it because it’s not efficient, not useful to anyone, etc. Great. It’s called criticism. That’s welcome. Saying you don’t like something because, well, you just don’t like it or something in it, congrats, you’re a grumpy old man, find a porch and mumble to yourself. :)

    That said, I’m glad you got to work on a project you love with someone you love, Wil. Always a great thing when you can enjoy your work. It’s a gift when you can find that in your life. Enjoy it as much as you can since you never know how long it’ll last.

  15. There is one thing I hate…having to wait for this thing to be finished ;)
    (Though, knowing about the game making process from personal experience, I still want them to take their time and make it awesome).

    Glad you had a good time with the voice recording, Wil. Hearing that people enjoyed working on a thing always makes me excited, and look forward to it that much more.

  16. And if you made something and are trying to make it perfect, make it good and get it out there. It is better to publish to not, and there will be haters. But there will be fuel from the ones that like it, and some good insights from critical ones, learn more about what people like.

  17. This is how I feel about my knitting. I made it, it’s cool, some other people think it’s cool, and screw the rest of you (and the horse you rode in on).

  18. That’s not just a good perspective on criticism, it strikes me as a good way to let go of something that didn’t survive your departure (or that changed in a way you didn’t like it after you left).

    I got laid off from a job I absolutely loved after my company was acquired a couple years ago, and I’ve been lamenting that the department (made up of people I mostly respect) ended up having to change things in ways I didn’t like because of the new management.

    It’s not criticism per se, just that the new management had a different idea about where to take it – an idea that I don’t agree with.

    Time to reflect on being proud of what I did rather than upset about what they did after laying me off.

    Thanks for this, Wil. :)

  19. Mr. Wheaton, I will start out by saying I’m polar opposite to your leftist/democratic politic leanings BUT man oh man, you did so well on STNG. Not a single episode was out. For an actor of your age at the time of STNG, good gosh it was real. Example: episode “Final Mission” — “Stardate: 44307.3 Wesley must keep Captain Picard alive on the eve of his entrance exam to Starfleet Academy when their shuttle crashes on a barren moon.” Superb, almost a 1-man show, that episode, just excellent.

    So here’s a case where one person has both positive and negative opinions of you — It doesn’t matter. If you ever teach a subject in a classroom you will learn this lesson: keep trying to provide value to as many as possible, know that it is not totally feasible, doesn’t mean you should stop trying. At some point you’ll have to launch your own venture and be the boss of a huge success, you clearly have the brains and work ethic – go for it dude.

  20. I’m glad you caught onto what rappers been saying for a decade…haters gonna hate or you can’t please everyone…you’re just an attention hogger by titling your post to something everyone already knows! Good Job!

  21. Your response is wonderfully mature and correct. However I looked at the negative tweet and had a question. Did Doublefine do an extra kickstarter to get you? I believe the answer is no. So this guy who a year ago trusted in the company to make the game that they would make to the best of their ability is now upset that the opinion he trusted sight unseen, other than their incredible track record, has made a decision he doesn’t like. That tweet is truly not a judgement on your fineself Mr. Wheaton but rather on the poster. Just as their are those who are hating on the “Batfleck” and on the casting of a woman who spent a year as a warrior in an incredibly tough army as “Warrior Woman”. They can’t wait to hate. Now he may end up being correct, but somehow based on what I have seen of your work, especially in the more recent years, and based on the incredible talent involved in Doublefine, TIme shall prove him wrong in his tweet and correct in his support of the Kickstarter.

  22. On the plus side, the first guy doesn’t know how to tweet properly – because your name is right at the front as an @mention, none of his followers would’ve seen it (except for those who follow both him and you), so there’s that… His attempt to moan about you to his followers failed anyway! :-)

  23. It probably doesn’t hurt either that you can post the naysayer’s Twitter where all your legions of fans can see it, either. Living well really is the best revenge. ;-)

  24. “The goal isn’t to make something everyone will love; the goal is to get excited, and make a thing where something wasn’t before.”

    This. So much this. When one creates, one puts something into the world that wasn’t there before, and that’s what counts. One makes something out of nothing, and that is a powerful thing. Some people will like that something, and some people won’t, but it’s the creation of the thing that is magic.

  25. First of all, I understand Imposter Syndrome. I often have the feeling that someone is going to show up at my door, pick me up by the nape of my neck like some feral Tabby and announce to the world that I am a fraud. But I’m getting better.
    One of the heartening things about my journey as an author is that I’m less and less devastated by negative reviews. I don’t like them, but I like my books, I take full ownership of them and it’s okay if they’re not everyone’s idea of fine literature or good humor. I liked making the thing, and I like the thing I made. Thanks for understanding, Wil.

  26. This is an excellent post. I’m of a very similar mind. For a long time it was very difficult for me to accept criticism. I also thought that those who praised me were just doing so because we were family or friends. You know, just to be nice. It took some growing up and personal rewiring to change that. Now, when I make a thing, whether it be beer, mead, or leather work, I look forward to the negative comments. They lead me to questions like, “What do you not like about it? Where can I improve?”

    I totally dig where you’re coming from. Thanks for posting it!

  27. When our creations are personal they are most fulfilling. This also makes us most vulnerable when sharing them with the world. Thank you for sharing your creativity and your thoughts.

  28. Since 2011 a friend and I have done Nanowrimo together. I’ve been working on the same project since the beginning. This November I actually got to type ‘The End’ at the end of my story. Now, it’s a first draft, with all the crappy writing and other issues that entails, but my friend’s been waiting to read it since Dec 2011. Since I have Scrivener, with a click of a few buttons I can turn my drafty new first draft into an e-book that she can enjoy. It’s not fit for any eyes other than hers, and some beta-readers, but it’s a thing and I made it. :)

  29. You sir, are my idol. I find your tabletop series very entertaining, and your attitude towards everything seems almost clairvoyant. You are an inspiration through difficult times.

  30. I’ve never read your blog before but I ended up here through a series of random trails, as is the charm of these things.
    “Imposter Syndrome” – I’ve never heard of it but it rings true with me. I’m glad I happened upon you to read this and cast a critical eye over my own tendencies. It’s hard working in “the biz” being female. Harder when your art encompass’ creatures and animals that people don’t think are hardcore enough. Easy to shrug off compliments and let the negativity cut you to the bone. Why is it do much harder to remember the good stuff?

    My work will be appearing on national television for the very first time early next year and I’ll keep this in mind when my humble offerings reach the masses.
    Breathe. Breathe. Focus. Let it go.

    Thank you. :)

  31. My personal motto is that of the legendary drag queen, RuPaul: “What other people think about me is none of my business”. I try to keep it in mind at all times, but especially when dumbass haters hate.

    Your Pal,

    Storm

  32. I’m so glad my friend, Stephen, shared this post with me yesterday. I love this post to pieces…it speaks to me as a creative and reminds us all to not take things so personally. It also reminds me of something another dear friend told me once, not everyone is going to get along with everyone, we can’t be friends with everyone. Thanks so much for sharing this with us and I’m happy to be following you now and seriously much respect! Thanks!

  33. I recently discovered a fun corollary of this problem. See, I used to have just ONE album out (“Lady Liberty”) and most of the comments I got on it were favorable (people tend not to discover/buy my work unless they’re likely to like it – I’m as yet insufficiently famous to attract many drive-by “haters”) so I didn’t have much trouble accepting the feedback. But now I’m assembling and preparing to mass produce a SECOND album (“Phase Transition”). Which means there now exist people who have heard and bought BOTH albums. So NOW when somebody says “Hey, I really like Lady Liberty!” or “Hey, I really like Phase Transition!” my brain gets a little angry and wants to know: “Yeah? So what was wrong with the OTHER one that you DON’T like as much? You HATED that one, right?”

    Yes, I am aware that this is a stupid thought.

    Being aware does not help much. :-(

    ( The albums are here, btw: http://glenraphael.bandcamp.com/ )

  34. Until I read this post I had never heard of Imposter’s Syndrome, Wil. I always just figured it was my low self-esteem talking, which I guess it kind of is, but still. Thanks for helping me put a name to it. :)

  35. I think many of us who start creating things and doing things that can be judged by others suffer from a syndrome where we are forced to learn to handle rejection as just a part of life that isn’t personal, but criticism is akin to feeling that you let others down, or they’ve discovered you’re not as special as they thought you were. “Imposter Syndrome” can be difficult to live with as you get older, and lead you to the most crippling thing ever: self-doubt.

    I once had someone tell me, “If all you inspire from others are platitudes about how great you are and how wonderful your work is, you’ve done something wrong. True creativity generates controversy.”

    I try to keep that in mind, even though Imposter Syndrome can be a tough thing to overcome. Really glad you posted this one today. :)

    *Hugs*,
    *~ A.

  36. These instances remind me of the words of Wayne Campbell (from Wayne’s World): “Good call. It’s like he wants us to be liked by everyone. I mean Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.”

Comments are closed.