There are two impressions we tend to have about our own creative works. The best and the worst. We either think it’s the most incredible, perfect thing and the world absolutely must see it, or we think it’s completely worthless and should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to see the light of day.
The bad news is: both those ideas are wrong. The good news is: both those ideas are wrong.
I’ve been editing for a while now, and I’m starting to get a feel for what it’s like to work with authors. But even before I launched my Services page, I noticed that, where creatives are concerned, we all tend to make the same mistakes when it comes to our own work.
Just yesterday I was sitting in a coffee shop with three other awesome, creative people, when one of them admitted that she was scared about putting her work out there because she was sure no one would like it. She’s an incredibly talented artist, and this surprised each of us, until we thought about it and realized we’ve all had the same reaction to our own stuff.
On the flipside, there are those kinds of artists, those kinds of people really, who can’t be bothered to hear one word of criticism about anything they do. Who are just as likely to turn it around on you when you offer a contrary opinion. More often that not, because I don’t want to be that sort of artist, I end up being the other sort.
There’s no crime in believing in yourself. Trust me, I’m continually working through some heady personal issues because I thought I wasn’t allowed to think I was good at anything. Believing in your work is actually a necessary step in doing it at all. If you don’t believe it’s going to be any good, it makes it that much harder to even start.
“But where’s the line?” we wonder. How do we have confidence in our work without letting our ego run amok? It has a lot to do with balance, but the simplest, best thing that I’ve found is to let someone else see it.
Perspective is the watchword here. Without it, we’re likely to fall into either camp where our work is concerned: best or worst. We are often too close to really get an accurate picture of our creative efforts. That’s where other people come in. They aren’t likely to have the same prejudices, either for or against, and if we’re making art for an audience, then they can give us an idea of how someone who didn’t have a hand in making this thing will view it.
Yes, it’s scary. It can be frightening to open our work to criticism, but it’s also very courageous. I tell my clients every time that what they are doing is brave, that bringing their work in for editing means they believe in it enough to let someone else evaluate it. That takes guts. That’s something to be proud of.
It also takes a lot of humility to listen to criticism. The egotistical artist fails because he can’t take criticism, which actually betrays a lack of confidence. Haven’t you noticed that whenever you do criticize that sort of person, they always try to convince you you’re wrong? If the work were perfect, why would they care that you don’t like it?
Of course, it depends a lot on the person who is doing the critiquing. This is an act of vulnerability, after all, and like all vulnerable acts, we should be aware of the kind of person we are opening up to. Criticism should be constructive, and, I’ve always believed, it should be kind. It should recognize the effort and bravery of the person who made this thing, even if it needs improvement. If we can’t critique without appreciating what it takes to create at all, then we don’t deserve to criticize.
It will hurt, of course. It always does. I’ve never critiqued, edited, or expressed an opinion on someone’s work without them being at least a little surprised. It goes back to perspective. We often can’t see the flaws. That’s why we need other people to point them out, in a supportive way. Editing, opening up our work to criticism, will help us to make it better. In the end, it’s the best thing you can do for it.
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If you’d like help, I offer creative services like editing, researching, and brainstorming. Check them out and drop me a line. I’d love to work with you.
But whatever you do, I hope you’ll find someone you can trust, and I hope you believe in your work enough to let them see it.