It’s not good enough. Why don’t you rethink that? Something’s missing.
These phrases and more strike terror into aspiring creatives’ hearts. When we pour our ideas and hours of time and energy into a draft of a story, or a proposal, or project, we wait with bated breath and tapping fingers for those whose words have the power to bless or condemn.
I fear more is at stake, however, than merely the worth of the story or the project. Often, we allow criticism of our work to impact our self-worth. We think darkness is falling on our creativity, our career, our dreams. When this happens, it is an untruth, a projection, a lie we believe, but a lie which we must conquer with truth.
In reality, it can be difficult to separate our work from ourselves. Often our identity is wrapped up in what we do as much as who we are. Especially when we forget to include Whose we are. If I remember that first and foremost, I am a Child of God, Daughter of the King, and Heir to all the riches of Heaven, AND that according to scripture, my identity in Jesus can NEVER be taken from me, what have I to fear from human criticism or the enemy’s guided missiles imploding amidst the work I’ve created with my hands or my head or my heart?
Nothing. The answer is nothing.
But in that moment in time when I open the email and read the words, decline, or, not the right fit, or, please rework this and resubmit, or see suggestions for changes on nearly every line, my heart reacts before my brain can remind it that the words aren’t an indictment on myself, but often are only meant to help. Meant to wrangle the outpouring of my spirit into a form comprehensible by those meant to partake in the finished product.
Critique is not personal, but oh how often our first impulse is to internalize it.
Weren’t you writing about starting over, you ask. After all, isn’t that the title of this blog?
Ah, yes. Yes, it is. I am striving to remember that after a beautiful sunset, darkness falls for a time, but the sun rises again each morning bringing a return of life, light, and creativity. Time to rework our ideas.
But, sometimes reworking is harder than simply returning to the beginning – to the place where my brain is putting together the threads of a story – to building the characters and imagining the obstacles and the overcoming of those obstacles. To the triumphant moment when lies are displaced by truth and character change negates flaws. To the bones of a story.
The beauty lies in reconstructing the skeleton rather than enduring the tediousness of adding tendons and ligaments to a misshapen creation. We often forget to cut away unnecessary muscle and end up with bits of tissue that are disconnected, but still hanging on like tumors.
Starting over doesn’t mean all your previous work is wasted. Many pieces can be grafted into the new framework. But by going all the way back to the beginning, those missing or oddly-shaped bits can be smoothed and worked into something that will fit into its final skin with the sleek grace of a toned athlete rather than the knobbly appearance of an old hag. And let’s face it, which would you rather read? A story that bumps its way over warts and diverts around wrinkles or one that presents a clear, cohesive path from opening line to happily-ever-after, leaving you with a satisfied sigh?
Me too! That’s the beauty in starting over. I’m once again given the opportunity to craft the story I meant to create in the first place. Now, I have the advantage of knowing some of the things that didn’t work. I can avoid these and find the perfect nuances that will bring the end full circle to keep readers up past their bedtimes and salivating for the next installment. Hopefully, I can satisfy those tasked with reining me in and forbidding me to send a lumpy story into the world.
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Huge Christmas blessings filled with love, faith, and joy and a blessed New Year are my wishes for all of you! See you in 2023.