Putting ourselves out there to be evaluated by others--whether it's for critique partners or blog readers or agents and editors or the reading public--will involve risk every time. We may get all negative feedback, all positive or a mixed bag. Any of these scenarios has the power to eviscerate our productivity, though. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield offers this wisdom for keeping forward movement and using criticism well:
The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next will be better, and the one after better still.
The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she'll improve it. Where it triumphed, she'll make it better still. She'll work harder. She'll be back tomorrow. (88)
Pressfield goes on to talk about the proper place of criticism and our work. We use it to change and grow, but don't let it feed our inner insecurities. Because that inner force that Pressfield calls "Resistance" wants more than anything for us to quit this whole writing business altogether.
I especially like the hope Pressfield offers here about our creative selves--that we're capable of many projects, thus success or failure on the work du jour should never have the power to make or break us. The amazing future-you will come into being as long as you keep showing up and working.
Have you struggled with crushing doubt in the face of criticism? What helped you pick up and move on?
If you could meet your future self, what would you ask her? What wisdom do you hope she'll have for you?