You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in the last couple of months. That’s because I’ve been working on an important writing project, quite literally full-time. It was a creative non-fiction book proposal, with a sample chapter.
Now that the proposal is submitted, in this brief interlude before I begin the main project, I intend to get a little ahead on my Creativity Blasts.
There have been two valuable parts to this project so far. The first is the deadline, which forced me to organize my process. I didn’t have time to procrastinate, and even though I needed to research, I couldn’t use that research to procrastinate.
The second part is the critique that I originally received when I first handed in something of a rough draft. It was very emotionally challenging to be told how far my work was off the mark at that point. It made me realize the lack of clarity in my writing, and forced me to think a little harder about point of view. What I’m working on is in the realm of creative nonfiction. There is still narrative, character, and the need for engagement.
The people who were the most rigorous, almost brutal, with their criticisms, were the ones who helped me the most.
“The first draft of anything is shit”. ~ Ernest Hemingway
It was hard to hear. It was even a little embarrassing. But the contrast between that first attempt, which I acknowledge was unfinished, and the work in the newly written chapter is enormous.
It was crucial that I stay open and acceptant. I chose acceptance. Even though my initial emotional reaction was defensive, I set that aside and asked for more criticism. I wanted specifics – specific problems – because these would help me more than generalities.
The great thing was that in the process of doing the next draft, if I found myself recreating those particular issues that had been raised with me, I was able to see it occurring. My own discernment was raised from the process of accepting criticism. That too is, and will be, invaluable.
So this week my challenge to everyone is to be acceptant of criticism of your creative work, to be open to the information, and to push through your own emotional resistance and self-defense. It may be that on reflection you disagree with the critique, but that isn’t what happened to me this time.
And this time I learned a great deal more from criticism than from praise.
“Happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending” ~ ActII;Sc3, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare