One of the most important things that I try to teach my mentees is that the only person whose opinion matters when it comes to your art is yours. Now I say this advisedly because I’ve met a lot of (mostly white, male) writers who won’t listen to any criticism and they think they are following my advice. They are not. Note, I am not saying never change anything. I’m not saying anything remotely close to that. In fact, if you’re going to figure out what your opinion is, you’re going to have to do a lot of changing and experimenting to try it out.
I’m also not saying that you’re right. You’re not “right” about your work. Art isn’t “right” or “wrong.” That’s exactly the problem when you start out. You have all these ideas that other people know what “right” and “wrong” ways of doing art are. They don’t. They only know how to do *their* art *their* way. They can give you feedback that you can listen to that will be useful in figuring out if that’s the reaction you want. But they can’t tell you who you are, and that, ultimately, is what you’re doing when you make art.
You’re taking off your clothes and standing in front of people. I don’t want you to do this with the idea that other people are going to tell you all the things that are wrong with your body (although some will certainly decide now is the time to do this). What I’m trying to do is get you to the point that you’re capable of walking around naked and listening to people tell you what’s wrong with your body and then just not giving a shit about it. Yes, I know that my body has flaws. I don’t give a shit. It’s *my* body and I love it. I love showing it off because it is beautiful in all its flaws. Covering up the flaws doesn’t make it beautiful. It’s leaning into those flaws that makes it beautiful.
So when you are asking yourself, do I write this book first or do I draw in that style or do I put this circle here or there, just be aware that asking other people first is a way to avoid doing the really, really hard work of asking yourself—and listening for the answer. Waiting to hear the answer, because it turns out you may have told yourself so many times that your opinion doesn’t matter that your voice is too quite or shy to talk to you and tell you the truth. Listen, wait, and try again. Then wash and repeat. During this time, it may be wise not to share your work with others until you feel safe with yourself. You should always feel safe with yourself. And you should always ask yourself these questions. No one else matters.