Two sides of a critical coin.
One of the criticisms I used to hear about me (and maybe it’s still being said somewhere, but I don’t go looking any more) was that I “didn’t listen to my critics.” In reflecting on that odd bit of criticism, I found it to be a two-sided issue that warranted both paying attention to it and ignoring it completely.
On ignoring it completely: A story is not a democracy. If you’re writing your own tale, with no editor or with no client paying you to bring their idea to life, no one has the right to demand change for a story’s direction if they don’t like it. It’s your world, your story, your concept, and the path of it is yours and yours alone to decide. Whether people like your story is out of your hands, but what you present to them is yours to craft and create. Believe in what you’re doing and don’t let anyone bully you into doing something else. Be proud of your work, learn from any mistakes you believe you made, and move ever forward.
On paying attention to it: This is where it becomes delicate. “Paying attention to your critics” is not the same as “dropping everything and doing what they say.” However, outside perspectives can be helpful. My favorite example of how I listened to my critics without derailing my current story came from a year-long storyline from my previous webcomic, Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire…
In “The March Across Maltak,” I introduced an almost entirely new cast of orcs and spent an entire year focusing on them. Many, many people enjoyed it, but one criticism I heard was that I was spending too much time with new characters, where the remainder of the cast that my readers had come to know and love were out of the spotlight. It was politely stated, and upon reflection I realized it was a valid point. So, instead of dropping the momentum of my orc-centered story and gone to a “Meanwhile…” moment, I finished the story and then spent the next year focusing on the cast members who had been out of sight for the previous year.
In the end, I found a compromise between the two sides of this coin. Believe in the story I was writing, but listen to the feedback given and bring it to the next story.
Except when people are mean to you. Ignore those creeps completely, and always.