Why You Should Judge Your Own Work

Cuyahoga_Cover

I recently published my first sci-fi short story, called Cuyahoga!

I’d like to share a perfect case of why it’s important to not take any criticism of your work too seriously — whether it’s “positive” or “negative.” Either way, if you base the value of your work on the tastes of others, you’ll definitely be going the wrong way.

This past week, I received two personal emails from creative colleagues — both with extreme responses to my sci-fi writing. I’ve left out their names, but both of them are highly intelligent and successful in their careers. After 20 years of putting stuff out there (since my first demo cassette tape in high school with a photocopied J-card), I’ve experienced it all — love letters, praise, offers for collaboration, insults, death threats, etc. At some point you have to step back and judge your work by your own standards, Howard Roark style.

REVIEW #1

GENIUS.

I read your story. I was stuck to it like glue, laughing out loud unexpectedly, shaking my head in amazement at how your brain works, equal parts envy and pride to be an early reader of this remarkable tale.

Thank you for this gift.

There were so many moments and turns of phrase and ways of thinking / seeing / experiencing in this work, I wanted to jot them down to echo them back to you as examples of some of my very favorites, but I was too engaged to scribble notes. Overall, the story built and enticed and kept me guessing and fretting – is he paranoid and crazy or is he the only one who sees? I like him so much, I don’t want him to be crazy, but if he’s not crazy, the alternative is so depressing. How will he get out of this? Will he ever be understood? And of course, why, why, why? the first and last question asked. Amazing. I was riveted.

One of my favorite chapters was when he sat and engaged with his mom. It felt almost like a new beginning and the poetics and quiet of that chapter took me by surprise, like a moment of sudden meditation while in line at the DMV. I shouldn’t say favorite because the entire narrative engaged me and thrilled me. There was a different energy that infused me with sadness in that chapter and it was beautiful.

Submit. This. To. McSweeny’s.

Keep writing. You have it. No doubt.

REVIEW #2

Carl,

I absolutely hate to write this and I’ve been holding off on it because I don’t know how to say it in kinder words, but I really just couldn’t make it through the first 30 pages of your book. I don’t like the writing style and it feels amateurish. It might not be my kind of book, either, but I felt that I needed to give you my honest criticism here. If you like, I can probably pull some specifics. I haven’t written a review or provided any feedback because I simply lost interest as I read through it.

I generally enjoy science fiction stories, but I don’t read any of the new stuff. I think the most recent sci-fi I’ve read is Michael Crichton’s Sphere. I only get around to reading a few fiction books per year, too.

Nevertheless, let me know if you’d like to discuss it further. I hope the book is successful for you, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to finishing it. I’m quite proud of you for finishing the project and putting so much time and effort into it. And I’m hoping that lots of other readers out there enjoy it immensely.

See? People don’t know what they’re talking about.

Here’s another extreme example:

1.) For nearly THREE YEARS, I’ve worked on a project called The Mysterious Octopus! It’s a Cartoon TV Show concept. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on it so far, and released two versions of it to the public. Very few people have noticed it. I think 17 people like it on Facebook.

2.) I wrote a blog entry called 10 Myths About Introverts. I crapped it out in an afternoon. Out of nowhere, it spread all over the world. It’s now been read by over 750,000 people. I get emails about it every day, telling me how it has changed lives. Therapists and counselors use it during their sessions. I’m still waiting for one of my therapists (yes, I have more than one) to suggest I read it.

It’s insane. So don’t pay attention to how people react (or if they react at all). Don’t second-guess yourself. Just follow your own path, invite others to come along, and make what you want to make. Art Because.

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5 Responses to “Why You Should Judge Your Own Work”

  1. Lori went to the beach and complained:

    I live this same life. People say such opposite things about my work. As a sensitive artist, I am constantly working on listening to my own voice instead of “people”. Good luck with that. If you master it, please share how!

  2. james pitts went to the beach and complained:

    Opinions are like assholes, they’re often full of shit.

  3. Arisa went to the beach and complained:

    This is some advice I should follow. I’m much too concerned with everyone else’s opinion, or that I never hear anything.
    I better just “do” instead of “worry”.

  4. Max went to the beach and complained:

    Always have admired you for things like this. Thanks for the wisdom.

  5. Dale Turner went to the beach and complained:

    DAMN STRAIGHT:

    “Don’t second-guess yourself. Just follow your own path, invite others to come along, and make what you want to make. Art Because.”

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