On Writing – The Reflex

A short post today on a skill I believe is important not only for writers, but for anyone pursuing passion in their art: the importance of criticism. I shared the video above because when I first saw it maybe ten years ago, it opened my eyes to the most important kind of friend/editor/critic to share your work with: the one who challenges you to impress them.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m as human as anyone else and appreciate the “ego stroke” of a friend’s compliments to keep gas in the tank for my work, but criticism, scrutiny and skepticism are equally as important. The questions and critiques of an editor who “doesn’t get it” or “isn’t feeling it” should be held in equal (if not higher) esteem than those who love and appreciate the beautiful artistry that springs forth from your innate being.

Michelangelo was famously asked how he created the statue of David from what was considered an unusable piece of marble. His answer (paraphrasing) was that the statue was there, he just beat it out of the marble. Like Michelangelo, we need to beat our best work out of the marble that we draft onto the page/canvas/sculpting block…table…pedestal? Whatever it is sculptors sculpt on, you get the picture (point being: sculptors be sculpting ).

Yes, it is tough to quiet the “defensive ego” when your work or ideas are besieged by skepticism and confusion, but in thinking through the questions your viewers are posing you develop deeper understanding, a more solid plan, and map to a tighter work.

In summation my advice to all artists is this, which I have trained myself towards and continue training myself to as automatic reflex: learn to relish criticism and scrutiny of your ideas and work. Be so eager for it that you even become a little impatient with blanket approval from friends and editors. When you do get that feedback? If you find yourself responding in a way that justifies leaving your work as is, stop. Learn to think about (or better yet ask) how you can improve the work in light of the feedback.

I’ve said before that most readers can point out issues, but won’t necessarily have good solutions, but learn to work towards solutions and evolution of your work rather than avoiding/shielding your work from criticism. It’s something I’m constantly working on, and it benefits all art to be an evolving process rather than a static expression.

As always, we move forward. Happy writing today, friends.

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