Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Walking the Dark Side of the Moon
You’ve all been there. Not literally, of course, because it’s inaccessible. You’ve heard Pink Floyd sing about it on their magnum opus album of the same name. Books bear the title. Video games do too. Songwriters refer to it and even Sherrilyn Kenyon used it as the title of a recent novel.
You’ve wondered if the dark side’s a mere reflection of the moon face we see regularly, or something different. Unique. Special. Maybe sinister. It is the DARK side, is it not? Didn’t George Lucas make a bazillion dollars turning the concept of ‘the dark side’ into unforgettable conflict?
We mere mortals tend to see things in shades of light/dark, good/bad, strong/weak, etc. We label and classify in a process that offers us more control.
We like control.
Maybe that’s why criticism hurts so much. It knives that control, it pierces our resolve, it threatens our equanimity because we don’t measure up to someone, somewhere. Myra blogged the other day about how criticism dogs us long after compliments leave us. We perseverate on it. Dwell on it. Let it eat at us, nipping the heels of our enthusiasm and talent.
Whaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!
Let’s go one step further. Let’s suppose God granted us two hands, ten fingers, two eyes and a brain to take that criticism and turn it into a better song, a more resourceful child, a deeper spirituality and yes, a stronger manuscript or book.
Yup, you’ve got it. I’m telling you to use the gifts God gave you to be the parent you can be, the Christian you ought to be and the writer you should be, all by using what you’ve already been given.
It’s easy to complain. So easy. And I’m ridiculously guilty of that weakness, but not proud of it because quite often there’s a glimmer or more of hard truth in criticism.
And what do we do?
Jump to the defensive. Rally the troops. Become enraged. Doubt the critic’s or judge’s or editor/agent’s intelligence and wonder if they might be the unclaimed child of an African primate that swings from trees.
What is the matter with us? Why do we raise our hackles instantly when someone takes a jab, well meaning or otherwise? Are we that insecure? That uncertain? Or is it that we’re too certain, ready to assume that if someone disagrees with our work, our stand, our opinion, they’re wrong?
As authors and Christians we tend to forget the big “H”. Humility. Oh we talk about it, but few of us practice it, despite Biblical teachings and Christ’s examples. We become obsessed with the quality we see in ourselves or our family or our work or our home, and resist examining things through the eyes of others, refusing to recognize the acuity of their vantage point.
Sometimes outsiders see us more clearly than we see ourselves because they view without emotional baggage or self-interest. This clarity should be viewed as a gift, an offering, and yet we often fail to seize that opportunity to improve ourselves or our writing because we feel wronged.
I love what Richard Mabry said on Tuesday, when he referred to a past rejection. The agent apologized and said Richard’s work wasn’t up to his standards, and how Richard later realized the original work wasn’t up to his standards, either. It takes guts to admit that and true courage to redouble your efforts and improve your situation.
Excuses are easy. Everybody has stress, time constraints, pressure, sick kids, aging parents, car repairs, leaky roofs, running toilets, and too many bills. Are ya’ kiddin’ me?
Despite that, it’s our job to be rodeo writers. Grab the criticism bull by the horns and rassle him to the ground. Take charge. Rope it in. Way too often that criticism isn’t someone having a bad day (a common excuse we use to make us feel better about ourselves), but a glimmer of something we know we could improve on. We just don’t like that someone saw fit to call us on it.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Carpe Diem is a stupid concept.”
Refusing to seize the day, the opportunities, the moments God offers to improve ourselves… Now that’s a stupid concept.