Here’s a pretend letter from a pretend reader of a blog dedicated to thinking through various issues related to art-making and Christian faith.
“Dear Blogging Person,
How does a working artist deal with criticism? I don’t mean mean-spirited people dishing out vindictive diatribes, but the simple, ongoing critique of one’s work that comes from all corners. Evaluation is what I mean, I suppose. (Public evaluation, especially.) From family members to writers for the biggest media outlets in the land, everyone’s got an opinion. (It’s all just opinion anyway, isn’t it?) Given that I’m a typical artist, with my own inner nuttiness going crazy with insecurity and self-doubt, I find that I oscillate wildly between the ecstasy that follows one person’s rave and the debilitating depression that hits when someone in the paper or on the jury confirms what you always knew was true anyway, that your work was substandard to start with, and probably always will be. I know about faith and believing and giving glory to God and all that, but come on…give me some practical advice here to keep me from just quitting what I’m doing, knowing there will always be people way, way better than me at what I do. I used to have great fun doing what I do, but now not so much. And one other thing: if I believe the good stuff and let it make me feel all rosy inside, don’t I have to take the bad stuff, too, even if it only soots up my soul? (Soots isn’t a verb, but you get the idea.) Thanks for your no doubt helpful answer. Tom. (as in ‘doubting.’)”
Before I get to answering poor Tom, how about you? What do you tell him? And yes, we are all talking to ourselves about this constantly, aren’t we?
And just to reveal one of my biases, I’ve always been a big fan of criticism, especially when its informed.