Everyone Is A Critic

Posted On January 18, 2010

   If you follow your creative wiles, dip into them, allow them to lead you here and there, and you enjoy the ride, I raise my glass to you! However, for those of you who quiver in your boots at the thought of cracking open the door to your imagination, terrified of the unequivocable joy that could fill your soul, as well as critical comments by everyone whether they know you or not, then I join in your company and cower next to you in the dark. When we are brave enough to turn our backs on our fear of judgment, and share our work with others, we lay ourselves open on an examination table, and those who view our work stand over us, scalples in hand. Perhaps it’s better that the bright lights in the autopsy room blind us to who is around, holding the sharp instruments, carelessly, sometimes, in their hands. Will we feel every comment? Will the ego raise it’s head with the tell-tale, “I told you so”? Most importantly, will we buy into it, change ourselves and our work to please others? God, I hope not.

   Somewhere, there must be a line to walk between asking for feedback, deciding if it fits and using it, or deciding that it doesn’t, and leaving it behind. That line fades, I think, when we ask for heartfelt thoughts, and we’re given something we weren’t expecting. Inside each of us, that part that is expressed through creativity, is hoping for validation. Did I do a good job? Does someone like what I did? Can they use it? Enjoy it? Does it bring them as much joy to view it as it did me when I created it? I’ve always thought that “constructive feedback” was a crock of bull. It gives license to others to spew at you in frustration what perhaps they cannot find in themselves. I’ve never been a fan of it, and groan when I’m in a workshop and have to offer it to others. Everyone is different, an individual, and attempting to have them be like someone else is futile.

   When I was doing teacher training in my school district, we would set up trainings, and then have teachers practice what we taught them, then observe them in their classes and offer feedback. It was supposed to be about how to use the materials, and why sticking to the script until they were familiar with the program was best. What I realized in a short amount of time, is that teaching is a highly creative art. There are no two teachers the same, and attempting to pound a square peg into a round hole is a lot of wasted energy. I believe the same to be true for artists, writers in particular, since that is my genre of choice.

   I’ve written blog posts on how I write, where my inspiration comes from, why I write, editing, and even letting the piece go out into the world to stand on its own. I haven’t had much formal training in the art of writing, and perhaps I should rethink that, and go back to school and earn a degree in English or Creative Writing, and perhaps that will give me credibility, for me and for others. One thing I haven’t written about (but will, perhaps, at a later time), is the goal of writing, or creating in general. Years ago, when Bob Brenly first started coaching the Diamondbacks, he said to the team, “Why are we here?” The answer? To win the World Series. And they did. Why does someone take up golf? To win the Masters. Why does someone want to be a race car driver? To win the Indy 500. Ask someone who writes, and they may answer, “Because I want to write the next Great American Novel.”

   When I go to a movie that has received 5 stars, oftentimes I don’t see why. Then the opposite is true, so when I like a movie, the critics don’t. The same goes for books. There are several popular authors who are quite prolific, and they have their own style. If you as the reader like that style, then you would say they are a great writer (perhaps) or that their books/stories are great. I’ll have to check it out, but what are the requirements to be awarded Poet Laureate? Is it several critics deciding one style is better or a particular poet has more to offer than another? What if your goal was to become a Pulitzer Prize winner in writing or poetry? Would you change your style, your voice, your message to that of past winners? Even if you were a square peg? 

   It takes a tremendous amount of courage to ask another human being to look at your work and give you their honest opinion. We secretly hope they like it, gush about how great it is. It requires a bit more of an iron stomach to take words that aren’t so sweet, suggestions that perhaps ask the impossible: change your view, alter your style, write from here not from there. I asked for the words, and have sat with them the past couple of days. I’ve stewed and thought and discovered that if I let them, they halt the ink that flows onto my paper. I’m forced to ask myself, why do I write? Then remind myself that I cannot please everyone. Next, do I have the courage to share what I’ve done? Finally, I remember that the ideas for my creativity come through me, are colored by my experiences, and deep down, I have the conviction that my work is worth sharing. It is my way (with the help of my yoga practice) of battling the ever-present ego that continuously tells me I will never be good enough. Everyone is a critic, and for those of us who take the leap and dive head first into that scary place of laying our hearts bare, we are the strongest voice of criticism singing in our own ears.

   And just to prove that I continue to battle my most severe critic, I encourage you to read some of my poems and short stories and the first couple of chapters of my three novels, all present on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com By the way, due to last week’s post, I’ve cleaned some of the items from my truck. The space seems more vast, and I think I’ve improved my gas mileage.

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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