While criticism can be difficult to receive as a creator, there is no feeling worse than working really hard on something and still hating what you’ve made. Self-criticism is a difficult skill to master because, in all honesty, it is likely you will always expect more out of yourself than anyone will ever expect out of you. Many of the ways in which we as creators attempt to give feedback to ourselves and others can often be a great oversimplification of the art made in the first place. Wasting so much more time focusing on what we have done wrong means that we will spend almost no time remembering what went right. And by thinking solely of our mistakes, we discourage ourselves from ever being creative.
Nothing will ever be perfect, even your favorite song from which you wouldn’t remove a single beat. Perfection is an illusion to keep you trying to be better and better, when really all that matters is that you are happy. It’s important to not lose sight of this. Focusing on perfection, in my experience, has always been the quickest road to burn out.
In English class, my teacher gave us a poetry assignment, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut, to write a 6 line piece for no one but ourselves and throw it out when we were done. The point of it wasn’t to be perfect but to bring our writing back to the bare essentials: writing something completely honest to ouselves.
Because everyone’s writing is so personal, when criticism feels overbearingly negative, it can be difficult to remember what made you happy with your work when you first shared it with yourself or with others. This is when it’s important to balance your own self-criticism and spend the time building a powerful foundation for your self-esteem. Because, at the end of the day, writing and art is about doing something and being proud you did it, if not proud of what you’ve done. It’s not about being perfect, because it is within art’s imperfection that it holds meaning.
I have friends who are terrified of opening notebooks because they don’t want to mess them up with their sloppy handwriting or ‘okay’ writing. They’re scared of making mistakes. But being an artist is to see the cliff and jump off of it, making so many mistakes along the way. Mistakes are part of the creative process and to act as though writing would even have meaning if we were perfect creatures is once again an oversimplification of what it means to be human and to tell stories. The mistakes are there because we only know so much and that is okay. Because something does not need to be perfect to every set of eyes for it to have meaning.
Before I go to publish or share any of my work with my friends or family or with the blog, I simply ask myself two questions:
1. Do I regret making it?
2. Am I proud of it?
And, of course, the answer to question 1 is always: I would write it again if I had the time! And for question 2, I answer the same with a yes. I like to think that, even if it isn’t my best work, I’m still proud that I sat down and made something. Even if the whole piece was terrible, there is always one good line or one good word I could bring with me into another story, so that way I can still make it something spectacular.
Everything you make, even though it isn’t ‘perfect’, is something you should have pride in because it is a first step, and it leads you down the path to getting better. Right now, I am proud of my writing here. But I hope there is a day when I can look back on these articles and poems going: I could have done this better. But I don’t regret writing because it helped me get here.