Sunday, January 08, 2012

Insights Into Criticism

Over the holidays, I found myself leafing through a favorite book on my shelves--The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald--and came across these words which I thought I'd share with you to begin the year:
"No matter how just the criticism, any criticism at all which depresses you to the extent that you feel you cannot ever write anything worth anything is from the Devil and to subject yourself to it is for you an occasion of sin. In you, the talent is there and you are expected to use it. Whether the work itself is completely successful, or whether you ever get any worldly success out of it, is a matter of no concern to you. It is like the Japanese swordsmen who are indifferent to getting slain in the duel...

"The human comes before art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit. Resignation to the will of God does not mean that you stop resisting evil or obstacles, it means that you leave the outcome out of your personal considerations. It is the most concern coupled with the least concern." (p. 419)
O'Connor's comments about criticism are valid whether the criticism is offered by well-meaning workshop colleagues, teachers, editors, or friends.

And I suspect her advice has equal validity when you're being too self-critical on yourself.

Any criticism "which depresses you" is counter-productive, and something to watch for (and avoid) in the year ahead.

So, as you embark on this new year of writing, try to remember O'Connor's advice to "leave the outcome out of your personal considerations" and just write.

Hope this helps as you enter the water and begin swimming again.

For more on Flannery O'Connor and her work, visit:


Sharron said...

The quote was incredible, mind-boggling, and lifter upper. I sent it off, with the link to your blog, to a bunch of friends.

It pertains to everyone, I think, not just writers. But as a writer, I was convicted.

Thanks for sharing!

Bruce Black said...

Isn't O'Connor amazing? Glad to hear her insights proved helpful. Thanks for dropping by.