Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What are we so afraid of?

Why are writers and artists so touchy? Are our egos so fragile that they crumble at the slightest hint of criticism? Is it self-indulgence? I've known too many writers who are so in love with every word they write that they feel they've been attacked when someone suggests it could be improved.

Why are Christian artists super-sensitive to criticism? Don't we understand our worth comes from God? Why do we feel it's un-Christian to criticize -- or critique -- the work of our fellow artists?

Our reluctance to give or accept criticism dooms us to mediocrity. Growth only comes through experience and hard work and even adversity, not through effusive praise and blind acceptance.

When you build a bookcase, for example, you don't just hammer the rough boards together any old way. Oh you could, but the result would be shaky and you'd probably not display it proudly in your living room. Instead, you measure and cut and sand and varnish so that the final result is attractive and serviceable and doesn't give you splinters every time you touch it.

We should craft our prose just as carefully. I've learned that often others see the flaws and splinters I've missed in my writing. I'm a better writer because of it. I hope that if my book is ever published, I won't assume that now I've arrived and be offended when someone disagrees with that assessment. I hope I'll be able to accept and learn from honest, constructive criticism.

Mick talks about the need for building our craft in a two-part post here and here. As always, he's illuminated this subject much better than I.


Valerie Comer said...

From reading the posts at FiF lately too, it seems that (as always) there's a fine line. It takes dedication and practice to develop a thick skin, to separate lack of appreciation for the writing from lack of appreciation for the writer. From my still unpublished experience, the best critiquing comes from people I know and trust. Not my family or everyday friends, but the folks I know who are going through this writing process with me. We strive together to challenge each other to write and then hone to the highest ability we have.

Julana said...

I was once in a writer's group where a friend got offended when her poem was critiqued because she felt the Holy Spirit had given it to her, word for word.