Keep Your Distance

Nothing is worse for an artist than taking critiques personally. I know that for myself, when folks tell me I need to change some of my manuscript, I get these little squirmy worms in my chest that wiggle around. I don’t want to change anything. But then I sit back and think. Give it some time to sink in. That’s when I know that the changes will only make the writing stronger.

Think about those artists who were given total control. Few can deliver. For example, the reason why the first three Star Wars movies (IV, V, and VI) were so great was that Lucas had to answer to the producers. The greatest Han Solo line of all time (I know) was an ad lib. Lucas would have cut it, but the producers saw gold and kept it in. Yet when Lucas made the prequels (I, II, and III) they lacked the spontaneity of the older films. They were too controlled. Sure, they followed his vision, but had no spark.

Then there are the Beatles. I’ve a big fan and always find it obvious which songs were written mostly by Lennon and which were by McCartney. Yet the credits always say Lennon and McCartney. Even though one of them must have taken the lead, the other probably played the Devils advocate—critiquing and adding.Even by there last recorded album (Abbey Road) when they were pretty much working independently, the songs still have that collaborative effort. When they split, both John and Paul had their own hits, but none rose to the level of earlier Beatles songs. They had no alter-ego critiquing.

The message: Let people read and critique your work. Only make sure that these people are professionals. You can gain nothing by reading sour reviews. Don’t go there.

Tim Kane

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