Don’t pick it up, don’t lay it down

I often link to the blog of Kristin Cashore.  Because she’s brilliant.

I’ll do so again, because today her post was about criticism, a delicate subject that she – as with most subjects – grips well.

As I prepare to publish my first novel independently, I worry about criticism.  I don’t fear receiving disapproval; I know this is a certainty, as the masses are generally unappeasable. (Also, my novel highlights some touchy subjects.  In general, people naturally react when you poke them in a tender spot.)

My concern is how I will ingest this criticism.  I’m sensitive by nature.  And my memory is pretty clear (except for the occasional lapse in the location of my car keys).  Thus, I foresee a pretty painful (and repetitive) reaction to the first Goodreads review starting with, “What is this crap, anyway?”  Just the idea of that possibility makes me cringe.

When I think of this, I recite to myself the following:

“Don’t pick it up, don’t lay it down.”

Another brilliant writer, Maya Angelou, is the inspiration for this mantra.  In an episode of Iconoclasts, in which Angelou and Dave Chappelle discuss criticism, Angelou recites an African proverb:

“I don’t pick that up; I don’t lay that down. Because, if I were to pick up the one (the compliment), I have to pick up the other (the reproach). And I still have my work to do!”

What Cashore is saying in today’s blog post is the same.  You cannot let anyone else’s words affect your work in either direction.  You have to know your work is what you want it to be.  That it achieves your goals and meets your expectations.  That is what matters.  Everything else is just noise.

But.  I know myself.

And no matter how often I chant Angelou’s words, when I come into contact with that first wave of knives directed at the heart of my plot/character development/intellectual prowess, I will be devastated.  I will curl up in my comfort corner and cry.

So, just so it’s handy, here’s a few other words from Angelou to lift me at that moment:

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  1. The best advice I’ve heard is to simply not read any of your book’s reviews. It’s the hardest advice to follow but it will eliminate the things that keep you from what is the most important: writing the next book.

  2. Lara Pitts

     /  September 6, 2012

    Ryan is right! Don’t read your reviews…leave that to me..and we’ll leave the pummeling of the mean reviewer to Jeremy and Wes…

  1. A note to myself at graduation | I am a writer ... dangit.
  2. The Iconic Maya Angelou | I am a writer ... dangit.

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