The only impeccable writers are the ones who never wrote. – William Hazlitt
Opening yourself up for criticism is never easy. Publishing and promoting your work knowing that reviews are not only inevitable but essential is a real challenge. Submitting work for critique, even knowing that those you’ve submitted your work to have your improvement as a writer in mind, is still close to standing naked in a crowd on the vulnerability scale. Sometimes even admitting to people that you write can be difficult.
Despite the risk of bad reviews, harsh critiques or out and out ridicule, we can never get to where we want to be, accomplish what we want to accomplish or be the people we want to be if we don’t give it a try. By trying we will always open ourselves for criticism.
When I think about criticism though, I love to look at some of the success stories. I like them partly because it’s encouraging to see someone succeed, but also because usually those successes come after being met with resistance or flat out failures.
I recently watched the movie, Walk the Line, with Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash. The movie takes us along his early years, showing some of his early success and struggles. Watching the beginning, where he could have given up and taken an every day job instead of pursuing his singing career, I wondered what might have happened if he hadn’t pushed for an audition? Or what if he just took the first negative feedback as the truth about his ability? Or worse, what if he never tried in the first place? We could have missed out on a lot of great music.
There’re tons of these stories, but I can’t help seeing what a loss it would be if we never had work from authors who accepted negative reviews or literary rejections.
- Dr. Suess was told in one rejection letter that his work was “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.”
- Beatrix Potter met with a great deal of rejection before becoming one of the best selling children’s authors of all time.
- Louis L’Amour was said to have received around 200 rejection letters before a publisher was willing to publish his work.
- F Scott Fitzgerald was told his The Great Gatsby was “an absurd story as romance, melodrama, or record of New York high life”
- Louisa May Alcott was told to “stick to teaching”.
Now it is true all of these authors then went on to great success, but you do have to wonder what would have happened if the would have let the words of others hold them back. Also what if, like so many of us, they became their own worst critic and let that self doubt defeat them? Given their ultimate success, you have to believe they had a strong belief in themselves that helped them keep trying.
Looking at these stories we can remind ourselves that no matter what level of success (or failure) we might ultimately achieve, we can never have a possibility of success without believing in ourselves. Whatever feedback we get can be accepted and considered in order to make us better, but our foundation should be built on a belief in our abilities and commitment to success.
What do you think? How do you deal with criticism and/or rejection? What do you think is required to keep pushing on to success? Please do share in the comments.
Thanks and have a great week!