In Celebrate Firsts, I shared the following story:
Someone once told me about meeting a new co-worker. This co-worker was young enough to have been a classmate of mine in school. Now, in school we both attended, I was teased a lot because I was chunky, had thick glasses, and was always the first to raise my hand and answer the teacher’s questions. In other words, I was one of the nerds who the popular kids treated bad so they could look good. The co-worker remembered all of this and how I handled myself in the situation. They said that the grace and dignity that I showed influenced how they handled themselves in their life.
Society unfortunately has taught more about competition and perfection than it has grace and understanding. Media, both traditional and virtual, are crisscrossed with expectations, actions, and reactions that make absolutely no sense Things like:
- We must be first and the best. If we aren’t, we are failures.
- We can’t make mistakes.
- Someone who is offering us advice is either judging or attacking us.
- Damn them if they criticize, they are simply wrong or have their facts all screwed up.
- Insecurity isn’t acceptable, we must be all powerful and always in control.
These thoughts do nothing but trigger frustration, anger, and resentment that can be very destructive if left unchecked. They either turn inward, causing self-loathing and guilt that rips the soul apart. Or they explode outward creating hurt feelings, knee-jerk reactions, and other more unforeseen, and unwanted, effects.
What if instead of this endless, and useless, battle to prove our superiority to one another, we embrace each other’s knowledge and experience and use it to our mutual benefit? Idealistic and naive, maybe. Still it’s something to consider, especially in the divisive and uncertain climate we seem to find ourselves in.
The necessary change starts with accepting criticism with grace. It may come more natural to some people, but we all have the capacity of doing it.
Yes, as authors, we want our works to be perfect. And yes, there are readers who for whatever will take their disappointments and frustrations out on us. It’s the bully and victim syndrome that goes on in school, which I have more than enough experience in and not as the bully.
Control and focus are part a person’s sense of self. When humans don’t have these things in one place, they will try and find them in others. If someone is in pain, it’s even worse. They want to make other people hurt, just so they can feel better or at least know their victims are as miserable as they are.
Writing is harder to be objective with than most anything else. Authors want their investment of time, effort, heart, soul, and mind to mean something and even lead to immortality, if possible. We don’t want to think about the mistakes we made because in our eyes our piece must be perfect, or it has no value. Yet, as much as we try to avoid typos, they are there. Our brains, craving that impossible perfection, just fool us into thinking they don’t exist.
How can we learn and develop our craft so we create something even more beautiful if we take every legitimate criticism as a personal attack or damnation? We can’t. And didn’t Albert Einstein once say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?