3 simple truths about criticism we often forget

criticism_writing

Rejection. Bad review. Returned papers and manuscripts. All these essentially we consider as a bad news. And it’s not fun to experience it. You feel naked and exposed, your heart is pounding, probably you are blushing and even feel embarrassed. “How did this happen“, you might slur for a second, but the only thing you can actually think of is how hurt, disappointed and discouraged at the moment you are.

Today I want to share with you a different look at the criticism that might help you deal with these situations easier in the future.

I believe, the first and foremost thing we need to do is to accept that it is simply inevitable –  there is very small likelihood that everybody will like and approve of your writing. As we are able to appreciate praise for our work so there is also the other side of the coin: we need to face there is always a chance that someone will not find our work suitable.

The second truth we often forget is that there is nothing personal about it. There is no conspiracy against you and your work. Nobody hates your poems and your stories are not boring. But the problem here is that we as writers always offer something that is part of us – thoughts, emotions or knowledge. Any criticism that comes our way, we might translate as a personal attack – to some point that many writers give up creating at all.

One simple thought that helped me a lot at the beginning of my academic career is that any professor, writer or reviewer of my work was also a beginner. He was also rejected and criticized. With years, I managed to write and work with many people I admired as a student. But it takes time and persistence.

Another thing I learned along the way is to differentiate constructive criticism and when someone is just plain rude. These are two completely opposite things: constructive criticism is oriented towards offering helpful insights and advice, while when someone just bashes your work to satisfy their own ego issues – well these type of people you want to avoid completely. These are all merely opinions and you always have the opportunity to explore the source – where is this criticism coming from, is it really applicable to your work, how reviewer /editor is really competent to analyze your type of work. And from that point decide how to accept or deal with criticism.

The third truth that will serve you the most is – take what you can from that experience and simply let go. In order to continue writing and creating, this is the crucial step. If you got honest feedback about your work, take a step back and think how it can help you in your future work; how you can use it to improve your writing and creativity.

Any negative situation is your chance to learn and grow. You are the only one in charge of your self-confidence, so keep writing.


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Poetic inspiration: Every writing and every reading is always relevant

A photo by Oscar Keys. unsplash.com/photos/AmPRUnRb6N0

Any written poem –

just like language is ever-evolving,

changing, as each time

we can perceive it, experience it

differently.

Maja S. Todorovic


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The Poem Strikes Back! (creative writing exercise)

poem-strikes-back

It’s a bit strange title for the blog post, isn’t it? This is a different approach to writing prompts and exercises that you are accustomed to on this blog, but the last thing we want is to be boring and monotonous.

And before you dismiss whole idea, because it sounds silly – actually it is all about being aware of different perspectives. This is a sort of continuation of blog posts related to mindfulness and why not taking a role play as a foundation for writing prompt? To go even step further, let’s imagine that you are a poem. What would poem have to say? We use our writing as a tool to release our anger, love, passion, depression, fears, admiration, secrets, desires…Is your poem tired of you? Are you whining all the time? Are you always concentrated on what’s going on inside yourself that you missed a beautiful, strong and passionate  winter storm? The birch outside your window doesn’t have any leaves, have you noticed that?

Or you are trying to please everybody all day and you forgot to smile. Can you count how many times you smiled today?

Do you remember your latest dream? And when was the last time you danced to your favorite song?

Let your poem tell you all that. Imagine your writing is a mirror, what is it reflecting? What is missing out of your life? What is too much?

This is something I like to call reversed mindfulness. You are observing, noticing, listening…but instead of what is, we can focus on what isn’t. Our poem can tell us that story, a sort of self-reflection that shows us where our life is at, right now and what we can change.

It doesn’t matter if its humorous, boring, exaggerating – nobody is perfect, so neither is your poem. It’s about the understanding how we can enjoy life more.

So here’s the setting: It’s time for your writing. You are about to sit at your table but there is already a piece of paper waiting for you. It’s a poem, addressed to you and it says: “Dear_______

So, this is my take on the exercise:

Dear Maja,

how are you today?

Another grey Tuesday in the sunny Hague?

That rainy hat you are teasingly pressing on your head

Forget it…let it blow

like a wild bat…

Feel the wind through your hair,

that boring despair – leave at home

(there’s no such thing  “a graceful yawning”

I can tell you that!)

And why there are only two crossed lines

on your forehead?

Smile with your face,

you don’t have to know everything just yet.

Life unfolds, there is a reason I’m saying you this.

Stay close to me, my dearest friend.

You are not alone – like the Moon follows Earth,

I’m behind you, invisible, most delicate thread

you’ll understand, close your eyes, jump over that doorstep.

What your poem has to tell you?


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Poetic inspiration: writing is breathing

How do you make writing a habit? By making room, time and prioritizing your writing, until it becomes habitual, just as breathing is – when you don’t have to think about you need to write – you just do it.

habitualwriting


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Lighthouse

Is made of tears,
No bricks, no wals
you spin, haunting
your own fear

and recklessly try to climb
But day retreats, cowardly, in guilt,
Quilted with shy stars and mourning moon.

And I say, restore and watch
How streets glitter instead
Like fireflies caught in the rain.

Distant, but intense,
Those closer are warmer.
Snow rolls in between breasts
Of this curvy city,
Snow dry and crumpling like fine
wheat flour.

Feel the moment with your palm
As enters your nostrils, pinches and itches
Rub  it with your index finger.

I am a slug and I leave trails
For those lost among vowels
Sincerely meant but never fulfilled.

It’s not a broken promise, just
A miss, mismatch of right colors and
Puzzled shapes.

You’ll grow your own tale
When night falls
A tale you’ll trim with each coming dawn
And sew yourself in the mouth of the world.

Maja S. Todorovic


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Albatross

Grey marble dissipates in the sky,
With stoned shadows, astoundingly monolithic
Stack of matches pretends to be a bridge
One that will burn itself, in time, in song.

My neck is giraffic periscope thriving to the sky
In a minute an eyeball, in a second a curled hedgehog
Leaning like a head on the door.

So close to me, you are so close to me.

Whisper you can’t catch, it only comes to the privileged.
Soft, yearning and albatross of wind stuck in my hair
Thinner than paper cut but red and burning just as
Blood skirting of its edges.

My name searches for meaning among other women
Who knew of their existence
Probability was lost in the variety of choices,
Misled by a reckless afternoon.

As I drink this butterfly offered to me so many times
I won’t choke. A siren of lust is not forgotten, just postponed
For better….something. In stillness, question becomes
always northerly oriented moss

With wet dreams and I sneeze and sneeze
Like a puppy  accidentally inhaling ground pepper.

Sometimes I pray for numbness, the numbness of darkness.
With soft whisper, today maybe blue, cobalt blue like
eggplant sky above me.

Blue is cold, but promising just as this winter,
Where leaves become ice drones and roots
beg for new cracks in soil.

In the mouth of tomorrow shaky and sweet like pudding
while swimming in acidic uncertainty
I’ll play with distance and squeeze the nearness so inviting.
Until it drops – drop by drop in a rainy puddle:
Until I bleed again.

Maja S. Todorovic


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4 creativity lessons we can learn from David Bowie’s rich artistic career

Today we celebrate David Bowie’s 70th birthday and mark a year of his passing. Let us remember how great artist he was:

david-bowie

Ever since I was a little kid, as a great fan of gothic and mythological stories, my first recollection of David Bowie has to do with his role in the movie Hunger. Along with that came an interest in his music and artistic work, which later translated in true admiration.

With his passing about a month ago I also felt propelled like many before me, to say few words about his inevitable influence, not only in the world of music, but also in my personal view on the creative process in general.

These are 4 creativity lessons we can learn from his rich and long career:

  1. Be brave to question and challenge what is already there

One thing that accompany of all Bowie’s creative endeavors is challenging the ‘status quo’ of every artistic expression and just experimenting in his constant search for fresh and new ideas. Flirting with fantasy and experiential performance lead Bowie to pretty much shake up the established view of rock n roll in the sixties and early seventies and made him one of the biggest icons of glam rock movement.

  1. Embrace all facets of your personality

As a multi-talented artist, Bowie never shied from collaborating with musicians, dancers, fashion designers, movie makers – which only accentuated his innate creativity on so many different levels. I’m not going to list all of his movies, performances and albums he recorded but his almost 5 decade long career has proved so many times that when you are an artist, you are artist with all of your mind and body; you use everything you’ve got and that’s when creative miracles happen.

  1. Be humble.

On many occasions, artists that collaborated with Bowie, being that long-term associates or single-project cooperation, rarely would negatively comment about his approach to work. Brian Eno, Eggy Pop, Brian Molko.. describe him as a patient colleague, open-minded to other’s people opinions, which always delivered productive, creative outlet.

  1. Always try to reinvent yourself

Bowie is very well known for unexpected career maneuver when at the top of popularity, he just ‘retired’ Ziggy Stardust, (his alter ego as it is referred to) and many speculated if Bowie is going to play live again. But what really happened is that Bowie managed to detach from that momentary success and allow himself to dive into something new, risky – simply to reinvent himself. That type of approach to work gave him the opportunity to enjoy his creative process in all its strength, managing to subside identity crisis into which many stars inevitably fall. As he did assume many fictional personalities he was very comfortable in ‘his own skin’, letting his true self to just explore and enjoy creative journey.

As a final thought, I would emphasize here that we all have that creative force within us; in order to let it flourish we need to allow ourselves to be more open-minded and willing to step-back from the outcome – what ever it might be. Once we accept that, creativity becomes simply a way of life.

The Man Who Sold The World

We passed upon the stair,
We spoke of was and when,
Although I wasn’t there,
He said I was his friend,
Which came as some surprise.
I spoke into his eyes,
“I thought you died alone
A long long time ago.”

“Oh no, not me,
I never lost control
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world.”

I laughed and shook his hand
And made my way back home,
I searched for form and land,
For years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazley stare
At all the millions here:
“We must have died alone,
A long long time ago.”

“Who knows? Not me,
We never lost control.
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world.”

“Who knows? Not me,
We never lost control.
You’re face to face
With the man who sold the world.

David Bowie


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