Believe nothing, no matter where you read it,
Or who has said it,
Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason,
And your own common sense.
Creativity. If you’re cursed with it it’s the thing that motivates you to get up in the morning, but then bitch-slaps you down to self-loathing depths the second you try to put it to practical use. Not unlike a clandestine lover who demands all your attention, but never wants to be seen with you in public, your creativity shines brightest when when you dance alone with it in the solitude of your psyche. Most of the time it reveals its beauty only to you, yet like a fool in love you spend your entire life trying to legitimize its splendor to people who couldn’t care less. Because in your heart you just know that if everyone could share the joy you feel when you craft that perfect phrase or come up with that undeniable plot twist, the world would be a much better place.
I offer this dismal little analogy only because when you finally debut your great art (i.e. a manuscript, if you’re a writer), and people for which you have little or no respect (or even the ones you do respect) poo-poo all over it, you can’t let that deter you. I know it’s hard to shake it off when someone doesn’t get you, but that’s all part of the creative process. As a standup comic I’ve spent years (starting when I was 19 years old) publicly bearing my soul to inebriated strangers, only to occasionally be heckled or booed off the stage more often than I care to admit.
Yet I kept going.
I had to, because my creativity refused to be repressed, no matter how much I tried to smother it with the left side of my brain. Ironically constant rejection forced me to get even more creative about how I expressed my art, and at some point I realized I could choose to be either a jaded bore or a confident outcast. Admittedly I ended up embracing a little bit of both, fermenting nicely into a cynical dreamer.
Cynical Artistic Advice
So when it comes to artistic feedback I always tell my kids, my students, my friends, or anyone who’ll pay a nanosecond of attention to me, to do three things:
- Listen politely (plastering a saccharine smile on your face sometimes helps)
- Accept what’s helpful
- Throw away the rest
There’s nothing wrong with rejecting rejection. Just because someone offers you his or her opinion (solicited or otherwise) doesn’t mean you have to take it. Even if they’re the expert. Being a novice sometimes gives you a certain level of freedom that too much experience tends to squelch.
But if you just can’t help listening to EVERYONE who coughs up an assessment of your work, including those who’ve never ventured an inch out on that rickety limb because they can’t stomach the sound of cracking wood, simply thank them for their input and keep plowing forward. If you’re unsure what the heck you’re doing (and let’s face it, aren’t we all?) it never hurts to use your passion as a compass.
This post an excerpt from my new book “The Memoir Midwife; 9 Steps to Self-publishing Your Book,” which is going to print as we speak. You can get your free copy by taking my “How to Self-publish Your Book” workshop. Next workshops coming up are Sept. 20 in San Diego and Sept 27 in Park City. E-mail me at StacyDymalsk@gmail.com for details.
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Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage. For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.