False Enemies – Creativity & Criticism

Copyright © 2009 by L. E. Carroll

Life is full of strife, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Breathing forces us to strive against the resistance of our ribs and several other parts of our bodies. Walking across the room forces us to strive against gravity and several other forces.

To live we must strive against bad weather, dangerous animals, hateful or apathetic people – or loving people who may not understand our needs and may oppose us “for our own good.” Often we must strive against negative or neutral or benevolent social systems.

Thus it is that rational paranoia is a necessary, healthy, part of life. But most good things can be carried too far. So it is that we often equate opposites as opponents, sometimes to great harm.

Two of those opposites are creativity and criticism. The first adds stuff to the world. The second subtracts stuff. But though they are opposites, they are not opponents. They are more akin to our left and right hands – or our left brain and right brain. Properly used they work together. And together they are a hundred times more effective than either working alone.

Much of becoming an artist is learning how to use creativity and criticism so they aid each other. One tactic is to defer criticism until after much work is done – until the sculpture is a rough but evocative outline, the first draft of a story recognizably what we sought to do, the painting has bold or subtle swaths of color and texture essentially but not exactly where they should be.

Another tactic is to learn to switch quickly back and forth between the two modes of work. I will typically dash off one or a few sentences, or paragraphs, trying to get the images and ideas right, and let the words fall onto the paper willy-nilly. Then I will take a quick break by taking a sip of whatever, or getting up to go to the bathroom. Then I will scan what I did, fix the most obvious and easily fixed word/sentence errors, and rush on.

The bottom line? Creativity and criticism are false enemies, and true friends.

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