I'm feeling philosophical today.
Everybody needs some strokes. The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism so personally, a single sneer can quash the muse. I'm an author, actor, musician and artist so maybe I got hit with a quadruple whammy. Dang gene pool . . .
Those who read this blog know that I've recently "Kindle-ized" my backlist. I'm excited that the Aging Cat book has sold very well, and have high hopes that the just released print version will do equally well. But this week for the first time, books sold on Kindle were "returned."
Huh? What happened?! Didn't they *sniff* like the book? Why not? *whimper* THEY HATE ME!
I suspect you're like me, whether you've published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews leave me with a temporary glow, but it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives. And we LOOK for those negatives, don't we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The audience that didn't whistle and offer stomp-along standing O's must have hated the performance. If the artwork failed to sell, gallery attendees hated the artist.
It must be in the definition of "artist" to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it's safest to do nothing--pull all the books from the shelves, never write again. To try and fail is so painful, we'd rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again. So how many of y'all have decided to shut down the laptop, put away the viola, throw out paints, or hang up thespian aspirations?
I've made that "decision" dozens of times. But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It's what I do.
Last weekend I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who notes that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both. Successful performers (and writers ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores--and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music is freakin' BORING!
In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen--baggage is normal, folks. It's what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter boring. On top of that the old days of "punish the bad" has shifted to "reward the good." I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act...of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet's boat. We've learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down. It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process.
What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know!
Del Shores is fond of saying, "You are enough," to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned:
- We're all damaged goods. Use it. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
- Ignore the bad. Reward the good.
- You. Are. Enough.
It'll take practice for me to believe that. But I'm getting better. How about you?
Causes Amy Shojai Supports
Cat Writers Association, Winn Feline Foundation, AKC Canine Health Foundation, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)