Those were the words of Lone Watie, from the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales’.
I get stuck on a regular basis. No excuses, I simply get stuck. I start a chapter and bog down. I start a sentence and reread it and groan.
We all have something to say. We all want to be heard, whether it’s stories, full-length novels, poetry, or just twittering in the Ethernet. We, the people on the business end of the monitor screen, want to know that someone, somewhere, is willing to take a few seconds or minutes or even hours out of their busy, busy lives to notice what we have to say or create.
We keep cranking out words and then finally, somebody notices and ‘likes’ it, or not. If it’s ‘like’, we’re tickled pink and giggly. If it’s ‘not’, we get upset. How could anyone possibly not like what I said, wrote, produced? How? How? How can anyone be so – well, insensitive?!?
Well, this happens all the time, and it happens to everyone, so let’s talk about that.
What I’ve noticed in the ‘newly pressed’ groups is the thousands of people who want to tell us something or show us something, and most important, they want us to know about it. Obviously, we can’t all be noticed all the time. The work of some people catches our eye and those are the people we latch onto and continue to follow. The others, not so much. We aren’t impressed by it, it isn’t to our taste, it doesn’t strike a common chord.
In the process of writing, along with visual arts like painting and photography and sculpture, we cannot please everyone. We can only strive to do our best. So if you are not getting the audience that you had hoped for, ask yourself if you did your best each time you create something. I will not say ‘be your own harshest critic’, but review what you did and ask that question: did I do my best with my creative endeavor? If I were going to plunk down money for something, would I buy this? Would I check it out of the library, put it on my bookshelf, hang it on my walls?
I want to know what somebody else thinks of the stories I create, so I ask for feedback. I want constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is not flaming you. Constructive criticism is someone telling you ‘you got typos!’ or ‘spellcheck is not your best friend’. (Hint: Get a print copy of a spelling dictionary.) Flaming you is destructive, aimed at trampling you into giving up on the idea. If you can survive being flamed, it means that you have enough sense to take that kind of thing with a grain of salt… and then you go right back to what you were doing.
Someone did once post a very critical review of something I wrote, but instead of being hurt, I read it several times, reviewed my own work and asked myself if it really was the best I could have done. Could I have done a better job? I did not feel that I had been flamed. It was more a ‘heads up and snap out of it’ for me.
If you can’t take even constructive criticism without your feelings getting hurt, you need to rethink your priorities.
Are you doing creative work because you want a pat on the head and a ribbon just for showing up, or are you doing this work because you have something to say, to show us, to make us laugh and weep?
The creative arts are full of people who labor quietly, but whose continuous production never gets the immediate kind of attention generated by viral social media. Then finally, after what seems like near-eternity, someone notices and their stories, paintings, poetry, photography all begin to find a footing. These are the people whose work lasts, who generate long-term followings and whose work lives well beyond the end of their lifetime.
As Lone Watie said ‘Endeavor to persevere.’