Rambling about Criticism, Creating, and Recognizing the Need for Improvement
The "post" button is pressed and I sit back to admire the thing that I pulled forth from the intangible, chaotic ocean of thought and brought into existence with the force of my will alone. "This is what a god must feel like" I think as take in the "perfection" that is my latest work of "genius." Of course, that all happens before I notice the obvious typo right in middle of my title and realize that my thesis (if I bothered to include one) sounds pretty "first-drafty." Shame overcomes me and I hastily try to correct my mistakes before anyone notices and writes some emotionally crippling criticism in the comments.
The above is, obviously, an exaggeration but there is more truth in it than I'd like to admit. I write and I feel a fulfilling sense of accomplishment. A nice, new thing was created and I was responsible for it. "Yay," I may say as a few upvotes roll in. However, it is easy for the sense of accomplishment, which comes along with all artistic creation, to become an ego-stroking exercise in vanity and that can have some negative outcome for the artist. When this happens, the affected creatives often begin to take themselves and their work very seriously. For them, it is an extension of the self. Their works of art are their "divine" creations and they are the "gods" who rules over them. An act of criticism, even when it is productive and helpful, is "blasphemy" and "rightly" disregarded. Of course, in reality, a lot of criticism isn't warranted or justifiable but much of it is and without it or when it is ignored, an artist's growth can be stunted or halted. Because this is the case (as I see it, anyway), I believe that it is important for those of us who choose to create to not become too assured in our abilities or too emotionally bound to our work.
Perhaps, I am stating something obvious here but I still think that it should still be stated. We all already know that we shouldn't go around acting like we are the greatest there ever was and ever will be. However, I see a lot of people who have trouble taking criticism and recognizing the flaws in their own creation. When I was taking Native American Fiction for the Cultural Studies "block" that was required by my English and American literature program, I was asked to help to edit one of my peer's papers. She told me that she wanted to get an "A" and I set out to help her accomplish that task. I made several suggestions on things that she could rework or reword in a way that was more clear or more impactful. She became angry, argued with everything I tried to tell her, and told me she didn't need any help, after all. She turned in an almost unaltered essay and got a "B". I was not trying to insult her creation but she was either very attached to her work or chose to falsely believe in the "perfection" of her own talent (she was legitimately talented but, like everyone, far from perfect) and she suffered for it (not that getting a "B" is really suffering but you know what I mean). There are many like her. I have been like her at times too. I even once heard someone, unironically, make this statement: "I know that I am smarter than most of the people I meet." That is an unproductive way to view one place in the world. A person can not improve oneself or his or her work if he or she does not recognize the need for improvement.
I have been accused of criticizing my own work too harshly and that may be true but I believe that in order to get better at doing a thing, one must realize that it can be done better. When we produce some sort of art and people respond positively to it, we can become cocky and that can be the death of our creativity. If we want to continue to grow as artists, we must recognize the flaws in our work and make efforts to improve them. Sometimes, that may be painful and it can tarnish our unrealistically pristine self-images but it also drives us to improve and innovate and the more we do that, the closer we come to real perfection.
I know this post was only vaguely coherent but it has been a long couple of days at work and I am a bit short on time and more than a bit exhausted at the moment. I should have a day or two off coming soon so I will try to put something a little more polished out then.
All the images in this post are sourced from the free image website, unsplash.com.