“If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it; that book was not written for you.”
—Jorge Luis Borges
This is a great quote – not just from a reader’s or user’s perspective but from a creator’s perspective as well. It is impossible to please everyone all the time. Pursuing a creative passion, exhibiting/publishing your work requires nerves of steel because everyone who has a voice, will have an opinion – and it’s mostly negative. It’s so easy to criticize that RJ on radio who sounds like she’s reading instead of talking. But, have you tried RJing at 19? Probably not. The world is quite critical and cynical. Learning to take these different viewpoints in your stride will ensure you never lose your inner voice.
At my first solo exhibition, I was quite curious about the viewers feedback. While most of the reactions were positive, I happened to overhear a mother daughter duo who entered the gallery and immediately quipped – ‘this isn’t art – this is done with sketch pens. This doesn’t warrant such a big gallery space.’ The old school of thought dictates that ‘art’ is an oil painting or uses watercolor, pencil or acrylic. Whereas I had used ink and markers which was not acceptable to them. They came in with a certain expectation that my work didn’t fulfill. It wasn’t their cup of tea.
In fact I use this phrase a lot “it’s not my cup of tea” when asked about movies, books, music, art, performances, TV shows or even food that I’m not into.
I like the phrase because it’s essentially positive: it assumes that there are movies for me, but this one just wasn’t one of them. It also allows me to tell you how I felt about a movie without precluding the possibility that you might like it, or making you feel stupid or put down if you did like it.
“Its just not my cup of tea.” No big deal.
The wonderful thing is that “my” is always changing. Every day you’re a different you. So when you say, “Its not my cup of tea,” maybe it’s not for the “me” right now—maybe it’s for the “me” in the future. Same goes for stuff you’ve outgrown – like one may not enjoy watching a Justin Bieber concert as much as they did in their tweens.
For example, I could never imagine myself enjoying Beethoven, Mozart or Raag Malkauns by Flutist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia in my teens. It wasn’t my cup of tea then. But I absolutely love it now.
To take bad feedback and still keep your balance is tough. But, good feedback can be equally damaging. To rely on false voices to buoy your ego is far more damaging than negative feedback. It’s so important for artists to have that small group of people who are family and close friends to tell it like it is, yet keep encouraging you to reach for the stars.
To feel validated is nice but it’s so important for creative people to keep it real, to keep recalibrating themselves so they don’t lose themselves in this din of judgements, viewpoints and opinions.
Connecting with a piece of art is so much about being the right viewer in the right place at the right time. You have to feel free to skip things, move on, and maybe even come back later.
And you have to feel free to say, “It’s not my cup of tea.”