Stop Critiquing and Start Creating, How to Defy and Destroy our Barriers to Change

Donald Miller
Stop Critiquing and Start Creating
Today’s guest post is by Justin Zoradi, who runs an nonprofit called These Numbers Have Faces. Justin has guest posted before and I hope we hear more from him in the future. Today’s guest post is about creativity, but to me it’s also about maturity. Justin elaborates on some of the thoughts in Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making.
In an age where too many books aren’t new material, but critiques of whatever else is out there, Justin argues we need to mature from consumers to critics to creators. Great thoughts:

A good friend told me there are three types of people in the world:

1. Consumers

2. Critics

3. Creators

There was a time in my life when I thrived in my role as a Critic. I had an opinion about everything and spent many sleepless nights brooding over ideological arguments and creating fake debate scenarios in my head. It was mania, an obsession, fueled by the high of feeling “right.”

One day I realized that my very critical opinions were taking up a lot of time and making me a very angry person.

I also realized I was against a lot more than I was actually for.

Take politics. No matter who is in the White House, it’s easy to critique the policies of a President without having to constructively engage in the political process. I find it fascinating how many people have very strong political opinions but can’t name their local representative in Congress.

But if you look at the people who’ve made the greatest change in the world, they’re the ones who spent the least amount of their time as critics and consumers.

I believe human beings were made by a God who loves to create, and in his benevolence, he made us a lot like him. Whether 7 days or 7 billion years, God is at his best when he’s creating. So are we.

I also believe that people and the positions they hold can change. Which means it’s our job to try and move from a life of consumption and criticism and into a life of creative action.

Maybe you’ve already begun. If so, it’s your job to cultivate creativity in others.

This isn’t just for artists, activists, engineers, or entrepreneurs. I think everyone has the ability to create with great purpose. This is one of the reasons I’ve started this blog.

I believe ordinary people have the unique ability to impact the lives of others. And if you’re reading this with a few minutes to spare and high speed internet, you also have a moral responsibility to do so.

Work can be monotonous. Each day I try and put one thing on my to-do list that requires a fresh creative punch. Oftentimes this is as simple as a 10 minute phone call to bounce a new idea off a friend. I find this simple act of forcing myself to create actually invigorates all the other things I’ve been avoiding all day.

Some final thoughts:

Creativity is an exponential force. It produces better work that produces better work.

Creativity is also a repelling force. The more we create, the more it repels us away from the dangers of over consumption and over criticism.


Questions to ask yourself:

What moves you? What drives you? What infuriates you? And how can you creatively engage in a way that uses your innate gifts and abilities, instead of just responding as a critic or consumer?

Start today. The worst thing you can do is postpone your creative action until tomorrow.

– JZ

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

  • Rey

    Love this. One of the values of the organization of which I’m a part is “Grassroots Empowerment.” We all have a part to play. Most of the time we just need a kick in the seat to get started in creative action, instead of just sitting by and wasting the day pointing out everything that’s wrong. Thanks for these words…a needed kick in the seat for me and, I’m sure, many others.

  • Yes! Thank you for this timely and encouraging challenge! We get tired of hearing critics, we get tired of buying the next imitation of the last thing, but we love something new–especially new ways of thinking.

  • Ben

    Yes! Love the words and the reminder to create.

    Great idea–I am going to start my own creative to-do list.

  • Will H.

    This is awesome. I have really been trying to be less critical and more active the last few months of my life. I love this. I just did a Skype conference in my classroom with the Preemptive Love Coaliton. They are in Iraq doing heart surgeries for children effected by years of warfare. It was amazing and the kids loved it. I protested the war and was very critical of President Bush, but this is a proactive thing that people are doing to help children who are going to die. This is so much better than complaining and being critical.

    Check out their work, it’s amazing.

    Rey, I’m going to look into Grassroots Empowerment. Sounds cool.

    • I am horrified by this report, Will. So many wounds, it’s so sad. But surgery is only one way of treating these heart wounds. You may want to read “The Emotion Code” by Dr. Bradley Nelson. It deals with relatively recent discoveries in energy healing and specifically speaks about how heart wounds can be healed without surgery. Note: I’m a little uncertain about some of Dr. Nelson’s beliefs and it’s a “New Age” type of healing modality, but it describes how YOU can help people let go of stored negative emotions and regain physical and emotional health without being a surgeon/nurse.

  • Tom

    The best definition of a “consumer” that I’ve heard is “a pig at a trough”.

    Thanks for the positive and productive messaging of this post.

  • Joel Fry

    We all need our critics. Without them, we’re lost and completely wasting our time.

    • Scott

      Fair point Joel. Constructive critique certainly has it’s place. But, like sodium in your diet, too much of a “good thing” might also kill you. The point here is simply that we need fewer critics and more creators. The critic is a popular position because it’s far safer than being a creator. Critics live “risk free”. When was the last time you were seeking criticism and just couldn’t find it?

      • Joel Fry


        I have a poem that needs to be critiqued today. I have another poet friend who could critique it, but I would probably have to wait another three or four days. I could post it at an online workshop, but I’d rather not, for various reasons I don’t want to go into.

        I’m not simply writing for myself. I’m writing to be published, so a third-party opinion is vital. But I see your point as well.

        • Scott

          Joel – Clearly, as a writer and poet, you’re a creator. Better yet, you’re a smart one who recognizes the value in good feedback. In that case, I think you’re entirely correct that creators need critics at some level. There’s a healthy tension that needs to exist. At the end of the day, I just think it’s easier to be the critic and, as a result, too many of us fall into the trap that we’re adding value in that way. In fact, we may just be playing it safe.

  • Ann

    I like that you said this: “I believe human beings were made by a God who loves to create, and in his benevolence, he made us a lot like him.”

    It is a statement that for some reason, hadn’t occurred to me until recently as I began reading “The Artist Way”. This 12-week process is supposed to help one get back to that premise—that God is a Creator and therefore, we all are creators in some way, even if we don’t think of ourselves in the typical artistic way. It has been fun and interesting so far.

    🙂 Ann

  • I just had dinner with somebody last night and we were talking about this same thing. Only the three he came up with was…

    1. Innovators
    2. Inhibitors
    3. Inbetween-ers (or inbet-wieners as I would say)

    great post!

  • Martin Wondergem

    Criticisms and problems are a dime a dozen.

    Creators and problem solvers are never perfect, but they are worth their weight in gold.

  • I was lead to your blog by a friend. Great stuff here! I found myself obsessing today about things I cannot control, and its the biggest obstruction to creativity. It keeps us stagnant. Great post for all!

  • Great article.

    The following quote fits perfectly with your thoughts.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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  • Fear often stops so much from being created. And the criticism that follows creativity can be disheartening.

    But I was encouraged by your word and what Donald Miller tweeted a few weeks ago, “if you lead you will be judged harshly, but if you hide you will be forgotten.”

    I don’t want to be forgotten. I want to create. I just heard a talk last week about Genesis 1.28, where God tell us to increase, grow great, expand our area of influence, accomplish, satisfy, fill the earth and be rulers of it.

    We were made God’s image (likeness) and He so wants us to create. Thank you for your words. -Daniel

  • Rick

    Love it. Liken it to the story of the harvester vs. the sower. Which one do you want to define your legacy?

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  • Jason

    Random question, not intended to be a veiled attack. What does it say about our culture when we post comments on articles in a “reality/world” that doesn’t exist? Is this the antithesis of creating?