Let it be a lesson to you. Fucking up is an effective way to grow as an artist. However, many artists lose themselves in the gut wrenching feeling that they’ve somehow failed. But, have they failed?
Fuck ups can be a beautiful thing, a happy mistake, if you will. If you don’t believe me, I suggest studying some art history to realize the truth about other artists. If you’re a writer, look into some biographies. And, so on…
Too many artists get caught up in achieving perfection. Is there such a thing? The problem with seeking out perfection is that all art is subjective. Once you accept the subjectivity of your craft, you’ll be able to relax a bit more. Absolutely, there are grammar rules that you’re not going to get around. Make sure you’ve got those things down, while you keep in mind that accomplished authors still fuck this up. You’re in good company.
A discussion I had with one of my former professors served to do just that. “You’ll never get them all,” Professor Hollis of Empire State College said, in reference to the frustrating typos you’ll find once your work is in print. Think about that. A Harvard scholar gets typos, too. You might be concerned that you’re still trying to make your mark, and typos look bad. Ever crack a Simon and Schuster published book? Tell me how many typos you found in the work? I’m known for reading classic novels. Those publications are not exempt either. You would think they would be considering how many editors have pored over them through the years. So take a deep breath, and stop worrying about this.
In one of my novels, I found a sentence that was left unfinished, hanging. How the hell did that even happen? I have others proof it. I read it through myself. I have a program read it back to me. A hanging sentence that makes little to no sense should not be missed. Yet, it was. Gut wrenching, right? I shrug. What are you going to do? Thankfully, in self publishing, you can change out the file as needed. Sometimes e-books are little more difficult to update, but not impossible. I use the opportunity to mark all the typos found by that point and make a substitute of files, and I move on. I’m not embarrassed by it. Mistakes happen. If you’re putting out an honest to God original novel, you should be proud of that accomplishment even if it has pimples. Too many scam books fill the pages of Amazon, and then there are rip-off works, those that basically change locations and names and pretend to be original.
What are other ways that you could fuck up and then end up wasting energy on the fall out of that result? How about negative reviews, including rejections to your pitches? We’ve all been there. It feels awful. I’m empathetic to your plight. Here’s what to do…
Your feelings are valid. So, let you have some of those feels, but set a timer on them. You don’t get to weep over this for days without planning and making your next steps. Give yourself a few hours but no more than a day. Do not take it personal, even though you feel your works are just extensions of yourself.
Once you’ve dusted yourself off, get up immediately and plan those next steps. First step: put your ego aside and study the feedback for anything to help you construct a better pitch, or improve your work or future works. Make a list of what you need to do. Writing it out can help ingrain the ideas given and make them second nature. It will also make them seem more like your own ideas and reconcile any ill feelings you have toward the advice given. And, despite what we want to think, editors and publishers, even art gallery acquisitions, do not exist to insult you or your work. We only believe that because our cognitive dissonance is fighting to protect our feelings and worldview. No work will go through its lifetime without critique. Above all, no work is perfect. It’s best to get that idea right out of your head from go. Perfection is unachievable. Continuing on that goal is a long road of heartbreak.
So now that you’ve dropped the ridiculous need to make the perfect piece of art, you’ll be able to take critiques and learn what you need to up your game. Being an artist means you want to continue learning and growing throughout your life. If you feel that you know everything, you’re not going to do much. Art requires experience and growth to continue being compelling. The most successful artists don’t stop listening to what fans or critics have to say.
Does that mean that every piece of advice flying your way is worth taking? Of course not. However, if you’re not open to criticism, you won’t see the things that ARE good for you. Additionally, if you’re not open to growth and change, you won’t be able to recognize when necessary and good advice come your way. But, if you fuck up with this, don’t worry, it’s just another opportunity to learn.
Face it, fucking up is part of every project, the small and the larger journeys. If you plan for them, expecting it to come, and make a plan for handling them, you will own the game in no time. Success is a series of fuck ups that the successful dusted themselves off from and continued forward until things came together.
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