Friday, May 1, 2009

Begins with J, ends with S...

A warning to beginning writers and artists of all types.

I finally read "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron, a mini-course in increasing creativity. My reluctance was due to my creativity being in the zone of "how can I shut it off?" The usual waking up at 4 a.m. full of ideas that flood out, the ten-year backlog of projects, the relentless drive to work every single day. 

But a friend highly recommended the book so I gave it a spin. One of Cameron's points really hit home. She talks about the impact of negative criticism on fledgling artists. This isn't creative criticism that instructs an artist how to improve; no, it is a wholesale slam.  She encouraged me to remember those callous and cruel words and counteract them with the opposite. The aim is to neutralize doubts that block you.

Somehow they came to mind, one by one. The "best friend" who responded to my first short story at 20, with "I wish I'd had my red pencil." (to edit) The boss who pigeonholed me by saying another employee "was the writer." The ex who refused to read my work, convinced that he would need to criticize it and I wouldn't be able to handle that. And, the quiet but damning disdain and refusal to read by certain folks regarding 2 Penney's work. (the same work called "witty and well-written" and "a good story" by industry professionals)

Dan, a musician since pre-teen years, is hardened to such things. He was told many times that he would never make it, he wasn't good,  etc. He and his brother wrote and recorded songs that made radio airplay in NY and LA. They performed hundreds of venues, including sharing the stage with Aerosmith and the Cars.  They played at the Rat in Boston and CBGB's in NY. A little more output than the critics.  The ones who tried to discourage me have never had anything published. 

It's really strange. Being a musician, artist, writer, even as a hobby, arouses a lot of envy and jealousy. "I always wanted to ---" alternates with the negative slams. Think about it. Your friend takes up tennis, for example. Do you say, "Oh, you'll never be John McInroe so why bother?" Hell no. Or, "have you gone pro yet?" (the equivalent of have you been published or do you have a recording contract) In their minds, any output less than a best-seller or song on the charts says that your work is meaningless and not a threat to their own egos.  The need to judge and label it actually says volumes about that, however!

Quite a difference from "That's cool. Hope you make it." Or, "Can I read it/listen to it/see it?"
I love to see other people's work. Besides often being enjoyable on its own merits, it is an insight into that person. And I find people interesting. 

Artists in general want to be recognized and appreciated. Read, viewed or listened to. Of course. But it's not just about that. We don't do it for acclaim and dollars, though they would be nice. Creating for purely commercial reasons is no more fun than working a job. It's the welling up of the creative impulse, the journey from idea to reality, that is the driver and the reward. 

So, my advice? Turn a deaf ear to advice or comments that try to discourage or discount you. Seek out the best work in your field and learn from it. If you're lucky to find fellow artists you trust, enjoy their company. Keep going as long as the creative spring is flowing. Rest when it isn't. And, remember what begins with J and ends with S. 

1 comment:

Candace said...

You inspire me Liz!