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Sunday, November 1, 2009

If You've Had a Bad Critique

We’ve all had one. It’s a review or a critique that left us feeling flattened, like we shouldn’t have picked up a pen or keyboard in the first place. And we’ve all tried to smile and say, “Oh, it’s all right, it didn’t bother me,” and laugh it off.

But we don’t laugh. We don’t let it go.

And we don’t write.

If this happens to you, or has happened, then recognize that you have been injured. You’re not silly, you’re not making a big thing out of nothing, you’re not having histrionics.

The following steps are from Julia Cameron’s excellent book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.

1. Receive the criticism all the way through and get it over with.

2. Jot down notes to yourself on what concepts or phrases bother you.

3. Jot down notes on what concepts of phrases seem useful.

4. Do something very nurturing for yourself. Read an old good review or recall a compliment.

5. Remember that even if you have made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.

6. Look at the criticism again. Does it remind you of any criticism from your past – particularly shaming childhood criticism? Acknowledge to yourself that the current criticism is triggering grief over a long-standing wound.

7. Write a letter to the critic – not to be mailed, most probably. Defend your work and acknowledge what was helpful, if anything, in the criticism proffered.

8. Get back on the horse. Make an immediate commitment to do something creative.

9. Do it. Creativity is the only cure for criticism.


Wynn Harp said...

I almost always find some nugget of value in every critique. I look for a suggestion or comment that resonates with me and then I try it on, like a pair of shoes. If it fits, I learn from it.

A. Catherine Noon said...

I like that metaphor, Wynn! Like a pair of shoes. And sometimes, we have to take our shoes to the shoe doctor to have new heels put on, eh? Love it. Great point!