“The trick is to metabolize pain as energy. Learn, when hit by loss, to ask the right question: ‘What next?’ instead of ‘Why me?” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
I agree with most of the major points in the main post linked above on the confidence/vulnerability topic, including the embedded, sampled responses. In fact, I found myself at each turn nodding and thinking, “Just like Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way.” Many of these themes and issues arise frequently in the book. **
The one thing I disagree with, and side with Cameron about, is the notion that we are our own best judges. While it is true that during the creation process it is best to eschew judgement (especially of ourselves) altogether, once the art has been created and it’s time to assess and edit, others’ opinions are often helpful and sometimes indispensable.
“All too often, it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stage.” — Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron effectively says, Repeat after me, “My job is to create, not to judge.” This mindset frees us to express ourselves in flow without expectation, and it reminds us that there are enough critics among potential readers out there–our own misgivings need not apply.
At the same time, it is part of a writer’s job not to avoid judgement but to seek the wisest, most trusted sources of beta readers for objective, constructive feedback and counsel. Although this step can be scary even with trusted readers, it’s better than to resign ourselves solely to subjective self-flagellation by our internal committee of unreliable critics.
“Always remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.” — Julia Cameron
In other words, each phase has its useful function and purpose (creation, critique, and self-critique), and we need not fear going through all the phases, as long as the input is positive and helps us move forward with our writing and, thus, our confidence. Cameron equally encourages artists to shield themselves against negativity in general and disparaging reviews in particular.
“Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.” — Julia Cameron
Ultimately, art is meant to communicate, which requires an interface and exchange between writer and reader, speaker and listener, image and viewer. Not everyone on the receiving end will be nice to the provider, but very few will be intentionally mean or corrosive. Artistic expression requires a little trust and a little faith in people, not to mention courage, if it is to be shared confidently.
“Leap, and the net will appear.” — Julia Cameron
Avoiding all external judgement, a course that may seem blissful and safe, is not the path to unshakable confidence. It is a fool’s errand to make art while simultaneously expecting to publish and preparing to ignore responses to what we make. We only retard our development by insisting on operating in a vacuum.
Artistic growth occurs in conversation with other art and artists–which is increasingly true in the blogging and social networking age–whatever forms the art and the conversations may take. The dual gift is that we cannot help but improve as people while we improve as artists.
We can always learn from each other, even through the challenging moments. When we remain open with a balanced, sensible approach to engagement, artistic fortitude can be mutually and self-reinforcing. From there, we only get better.
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
** Seriously, if you are a budding (or veteran but jaded) creative type with low or wavering self-esteem, you should probably give The Artist’s Way program a try. Applied as intended, it is therapy that liberates mind and spirit and a system that fuels inspiration and creativity.