Sunday, January 26, 2014

Visualize Yourself Aloft


      Go aloft when and if you find yourself stuck in the negative energy that passes as constructive criticism, which includes the inner voice we claim over the positive moments in writing.
       Do a flyover that swoops in on only those words, sentences, scenes or page numbers, for that matter, that are complete and luminous in your mind. (Yes, this is in part a riff based on the new blog theme .)

My Reasoning
       As writers, our best bet for continued muse-inspired minutes, hours, or days of contentment (if not euphoria)  is to forgo the "likes" on social media sites. In turn, it may require accepting that even famous (or plain prolific) authors have their critics. To me, it sometimes appears that praise for some authors begets an equal or greater amount of nasty comments posted on those same social media sites against the book or script.
        It's even worse if you decide to take a massive online open course (MOOC) writing class along with 100,000 other students. Unfortunately, many instructors believe that they build community by having you share the writing/app/artwork. Instead, they demand that you prostate yourself and your fledgling poem or story on the altar of wayward critiques.

Fly In Tandem, Not Apart

Unfortunately, internalizing criticism can paralyze both the writer and the creative spirit needed to soar above the prey. In a 1999 study on criticism that focused on the process or the person, anything that made the critique personal rather than acknowledging the process or product itself caused anguish for the children (Kamins, K. L., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology. 35(30): 835-347.)
Kamins and Dweck (1999) conducted a study that assessed criticism directed at the person, outcome or the process. They contend that even positive feedback based on the person, rather than the outcome of process, created vulnerability and a contingent self-worth.
In applying this to our own writing, it helps to take neither praise nor criticism to heart. Instead, a writer who is wavering can try a few acceptance tactics:
1. Concentrate on your process, which includes giving yourself credit for writing without inflating the amount, the time spent or the number of good or bad critiques.
2. Honor the outcomes of writing, editing and letting it go when you feel it is right.
3.  Accept only that criticism, if you must, that addresses the outcome or the process. Soar above any critic or supporter who makes it about your person.
Know your signs. In other words, artists of all kinds can spot when it gets personal. We take it in, stop working on a book or article, and then go through a long history of failures in our minds. That's when it helps to go back to the basics: your basics. It starts with pencil or pen in hand and a blank sheet of paper. (Go ahead, all you who prefer a keyboard, but remember that we more often get swept up in the feel of pen and pencil on paper than in the tapping of keys.)