Let them hit you

Displaying your art for others to view is a daunting prospect. Whether it’s a painting on the wall, a story on a website, or a song on iTunes, once you put what you’ve created into the public sphere, interpretation is up for grabs. And trust me, everybody is a critic.

Initially, you’ll hear the work is good. This is because the first people who critique it love you. Soon, you’ll display the art for others to examine. Then you’ll produce more. After some time of fighting the resistance, you’ll have a body of work that garners more attention–either because it’s good or for the simple fact that there’s more of it to be seen.

At this point, you’ll experience some criticism. This is natural and beneficial. Everyone wants the positives and (some delicately worded) negatives.

Here’s the thing: Many of the negative comments will not be delicate. In fact, they’ll be uncomfortable.

This reminds me of Fahrenheit 451. A man named Faber warns Montag that making mistakes is OK–even when other people call you on it. Here’s an excerpt:

‘Listen. Easy now,’ said [Faber] gently. ‘I know, I know. You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.’

Faber’s not talking about creating art, but he might as well be. Some people are born geniuses, but most of us need to make bad stuff and get knocked around a bit so we’ll learn. Then we’ll make good stuff. The kind comments are swell, but the unkind comments stay with us. The trick is to learn from both positive and negative constructive criticism.

So let them hit you. Put your heart out there. It will make you strong. It will hone your “blunt instrument.” You’ll learn–and most importantly–you’ll get better.

The new writer, etc.

I don’t think there’s any way a person can be just a writer and make a living anymore–not taking into account the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons out there. With the dwindling number of agents, publishers, and marketers, people who write are finding themselves in the position of becoming editors, speakers, publishers, marketers, investors, producers, programmers, social network experts, and accountants.

Gone are the days of Hemingway being able to travel to France and Cuba to write and then mail his transcript to a publisher and receive royalty checks. Gone are the days of JD Salinger hiding away and writing as an anchorite. Gone are the days of Harper Lee being able to sell a book without doing a book tour and selling copies out of her trunk.

Gone are the days of being found by someone else. Now writers (and any kind of artist, really) have to make their product–and then get to doing the real work of spreading the word.


When trying to create, I find that taking a break from technology is a necessity. To be able to exist apart from all that is so easily accessible makes writing or drawing much more productive.

If I’m being honest, I’m addicted to technology: email, Internet, Netflix, Kindle, iPhone. Sometimes I have to take a step back and endure loneliness in order to create with a true sense of spirituality. It’s hard for me to write about David wandering in the desert when I’m listening to music or have the television on in the other room.

Such minds as Freud, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard concurred with the idea that being tolerably separated from outside influences is essential in cultivating exceptional intellectual development. Being separate helps us think on our own.

Staying away from the news and other sources of opinions helps me to construct my own thoughts and feelings about how I perceive the world. Then I can go back to those outside sources after I’ve done my creating. For me, there’s really no other way I can creatively operate.

Coppola and the way things are

Francis Ford Coppola said the following recently:

Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

This it the way it’s going to be for most artists here on out. It’s the way it’s been throughout history, and the arc of reality is coming back down for all creative types.

Mick Jagger said something like this recently. Rich artists are an anomaly. A person should create because he/she loves to create.