One of the things that becomes a struggle is that many of the critics around you (mostly other photographers) will be looking at your application of technical skills and rules. Most are studying your craftsmanship/technique, not your art. They will no longer be your audience.
Sharpness, lack of grain, perfect exposure, rule of thirds, blah, blah, blah...
Even in this thread you can see it in Salgado getting picked on for grain and sharpness.
The feedback you get will change markedly when you cross the line and start breaking rules.
Just remember Salgado is a success regardless of what we think of his style or choices.
Excellent point!!! In many of the things we do we compare our results with peers of the same discipline where most everyone is striving for the same "thing"???? When a non-photographer looks at your work and thinks it is wonderful we tend to think "what do they know they don't really understand", but if we are trying to create something that bring enjoyment to those who see it, hear it, taste it, then this can be considered successful.