Sunday, January 17, 2016
The Beauty of Inspiration is its Unpredictable Timing
How do you handle rejection and harsh criticism?
It is not an uncommon question for other writers to ask me, and it's not an easy question to answer. Some of the most famous authors, at one point in their life, have been rejected. That didn't necessarily mean their work was bad, but it didn't appeal to the person who was reading it at the time. Rejection is part of the process.
I believe the reason most people are curious about this question is that it is a real point of pain for any type of creative work. Writers put their heart and soul into what they do, aside from creative mental blocks (which can be caused by fear of rejection or criticism), rejection is 'the' point of pain.
Art is one hundred percent subjective, and writing is a form of artistic expression. Instead of colors and drawings, we use words to paint pictures in the minds of our readers. It is in the mind of the beholder to determine how they feel about certain pieces of work, and not everyone will like what we do. There are also moments when we don't put our all into what we are creating, and we end up producing absolute garbage, especially in the early stages of our careers when we are beginning to learn and define our writing voice and style. Even though we gradually get better with a commitment to practice daily, as we start to become more known, and our work starts to be seen by more and more people, the likelihood that someone will criticize or reject our work increases by leaps and bounds.
All types of artists, regardless of their level of experience, will deal with rejection and criticism. It is a universal reality. It can be as subtle as no one liking a post you created on social media – although that also has a lot to do with the amount of people following your work – to my work didn't get accepted for publication in a prestigious magazine because it wasn't developed enough, to the mean spirited who like to publicly criticize a person's work, to your inner self talking down to you, hashing out a heavy dose of you are not good enough to be doing this, go back to doing something else.
No one wants to go through the process of rejection, and we are all looking for relief from the pain of it, or a way to safeguard ourselves so that it never happens to us. The truth is, criticism can help us gain some perspective, we can learn about our strengths and weaknesses, and we do develop a thicker skin. Hopefully, because this is the most important point, we gain confidence and learn to love ourselves and the work we produce. We can never truly escape criticism or rejection; it's a part of life. It's possible to avoid it if you are willing to never put yourself out there, but then your work won't be seen by anyone, and where does that leave you?
There comes a point when you have to take responsibility, you need to listen to constructive feedback, ignore comments and criticism that are meant to rile you and offers no genuine take on how you can improve yourself, and you cannot take anything personally. It's super hard, I know, because your art is still your baby, but you don't grow as an artist without feedback. Rejection can be a humbling experience. Not all criticism is meant to tear you apart, some can build you to be a better writer; if you look at it in the right light, it can be a positive thing. It can teach us where to focus our attention, what we are really good at, what areas need to be improved upon, how strong we are as a person, and a multitude of other amazing things. It can turn us into kinder people, teach us to be more compassionate, and teach us to be more conscientious of other people's feelings, because really, who wants to be the mean spirited person leaving the nasty comments.