Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8 comments
photo credit: morguefile.com
Putting ourselves out there to be evaluated by others--whether it's for critique partners or blog readers or agents and editors or the reading public--will involve risk every time. We may get all negative feedback, all positive or a mixed bag. Any of these scenarios has the power to eviscerate our productivity, though.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield offers this wisdom for keeping forward movement and using criticism well:

The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next will be better, and the one after better still.

The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she'll improve it. Where it triumphed, she'll make it better still. She'll work harder. She'll be back tomorrow. (88)

Pressfield goes on to talk about the proper place of criticism and our work. We use it to change and grow, but don't let it feed our inner insecurities. Because the inner force that Pressfield calls "Resistance" wants more than anything for us to quit this whole writing business altogether.

I especially like the hope Pressfield offers here about our creative selves--that we're capable of many projects, thus success or failure on the work du jour should never have the power to make or break us. The amazing future-you will come into being as long as you keep showing up and working.

Have you struggled with crushing doubt in the face of criticism? What helped you pick up and move on?

If you could meet your future self, what would you ask her? What wisdom do you hope she'll have for you?

8 comments:

  1. Love this! I tend to take criticism pretty well, because I'm already a perfectionist and hard on myself. I want badly for the work I put "out there" to be the best it can be, even if it means swallowing my pride. I can imagine it must be harder once the criticism you're receiving is for a published work--but there's always the next ms!

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    1. Pressfield's book has some interesting stuff on perfectionism that has helped me a lot. He says in some cases it can be veiled resistance--it makes us tinker too long and not complete things. I find I have to have outside voices as I draft for this reason.

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  2. This is a great post because self-doubt can run rampant when you're a novelist. After not writing for a year, I'm now writing something I'm enjoying but I doubt will sell. I think everyone's artistic path is different. Luckily, writers have so many choices today, so their art can be showcased for the world to see.

    Thanks for being the voice of reason on my naming post. You're absolutely right, and I usually name by looking at popular names from that era, but I just couldn't find one that *fit* this guy. So in this case, I'm choosing marketing instead of reason and looking for names that women can swoon over now (and might help sell the book that I doubt will sell anyway!). Thanks again - I really appreciate your time and advice! <3

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    1. Just for fun projects are awesome for getting back into the writing habit again.

      Yeah, I am probably the only one who notices when Gen-Xers are given "Silent Generation" names or Millennials are named like preschoolers. In some genres, verisimilitude isn't valued much. The readers are looking for escape, not to understand their own lives better. If you know your market, do what meshes with reader expectations.

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  3. So much of that true! We all have to be tough-minded. And I go back and forth fighting with that. Just like everyone, I'm sure, it's up and down!

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    1. It is a delicate balancing act to be both the artist who is sensitive to the world around and picking up details and having insights, while simultaneously the tough-minded producer of work who doesn't get bogged down.

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  4. I just nominated you for the Super Sweet Blogger Award on my Screwing Up Time blog.

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    1. Thanks so much, Connie. I'll come check it out.

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