11 September 2014

Loss Aversion

I spent the last two days doing graphics and video for an investor conference, something I do several times a year. One thing I hear - over and over again - is this nugget of wisdom:

Investors feel the pain of loss twice as strongly as they do the elation of gain.

That's not new knowledge, of course - loss aversion is a well-studied psychological phenomenon. Its study is used mostly in marketing and finance, but I have found something similar holds true for writing.

I've been writing seriously (though non-professionally...so far) for the better part of 8 years now, and I've gotten several projects in shape to share with people. Sometimes it's friends, sometimes it's family, sometimes it's with other writers (via online communities, such as WriteOnCon). I've noticed that loss aversion dynamic come into play with my interactions with people.

I find I'm always twice as unhappy when I hear negative criticism as I am happy when I receive positive criticism.

That's not to say one is more valuable than the other. Criticism is how we grow and improve. Writing is a very subjective business, but the more insight you get from readers, the better you can be - even if better means sticking to your guns, holding to your convictions, and saying "Screw it, this is my story and I'll write it how I want."

But the dark side of criticism is how easily it can mess with your mind. A few bits of praise and you can be flying high as a kite, but as soon as one person says they don't like it, your kite gets tangled in your sister's line and down it goes (okay, maybe if you don't kite next to your older sister this hasn't happened to you).

I'm not saying you should stick your head in the sand and avoid criticism. And you definitely shouldn't avoid sharing your work. But it's good to remember that the crushing feeling will go away. Life is full of good news and bad news. We can't control what other people think. All we can do is keep trying to get better.

And also, not give in to our limbic system's impulses. Seriously. Stupidest system ever.

And lastly, go taste some wine. Which I am doing tonight: a bunch of different wines from mouthful Gundlach Bundschu. The only thing that could make their name better is some umlauts.