If you have any desire to create for other people, then getting feedback is an important part of the process. Initially it may be the case that all you can do is bring your efforts to the people who you want as your audience, and see what happens. As you grow and learn, your feedback needs are likely to change.
No matter where it comes from, the single most important consideration with feedback is whether you can use it. There are plenty of people who hand out unusable criticism. It’s very easy to rubbish something. People who have anything of value to offer are able to give criticism in a way that makes it possible to do something productive with it. If there’s nothing you can usefully do with feedback you were given, you might as well ignore it.
While general audience feedback is good, there’s a lot to be said for getting more qualified and relevant insight. There’s not much point fretting over what someone who considers themselves ‘literary’ thinks of your genre novel. Paying attention to feedback from people who are working in the same areas as you, or actively choosing to be an audience for the kinds of things you do makes a lot of sense. There’s no hope of making something everyone will like, so it’s important to be deliberate about who you are making things for. At which point you might as well not worry about the people who are not your intended audience.
As a case in point, I’ve had a few Christians turn up on the blog wanting to convert me. I am not for them, and they are not for me. Christians I can have conversations with about spirituality, morality and service – for example – are always entirely welcome. We don’t have to agree on everything to learn from each other.
One of the most problematic kinds of feedback comes from people who will try and make your work exactly like their work. This is especially a problem when you’re starting out and trying to figure out who you are as a creator. When it comes from people with actual or apparent authority, it can be persuasive. Anyone giving you feedback should be helping you be yourself, not trying to turn you into them. Trust your own feelings in this – if you don’t feel that someone understands what you were trying to achieve, you don’t have to take their feedback onboard.
Being able to offer good advice often depends on having a skills set. A person telling me whether or not they liked something is unlikely to result in my knowing how to do better. This is why a lot of authors will have other authors who read and feed back to them. I’ve had the pleasure of doing this for other people, and I have several author friends who read for me. I also have some wonderful test readers with wider experience, whose insight I greatly value. It’s good to have people I can take things to, especially when I’m struggling with a piece – which happens to us all.
As a creator, you don’t owe time and attention to everyone. It’s not actually feasible, and the higher a profile you have the more time you’ll spend hearing from people with nothing useful to say. I follow a number of high profile authors on Twitter, and some of them get a startling amount of abuse. I’m very glad not to have to deal with that kind of attention and I respect the kind of courage it takes to keep showing up in face of that. No matter what you’re doing, believing in your own vision is vital. Find the people who share that vision, the people who are fellow travellers and who understand what you’re about. The world is a big place and social media makes it much easier than it used to be for those of us who are more niche.