Be Bold, Believe in Your Gift

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

I am learning that writers must be bold and daring. This is actually opposite of the personality it takes to sit at a keyboard and write many times.

It takes boldness to “put yourself out there” with your writing. Any art form is like birthing a baby—it’s a part of you, a part of your very soul you are baring. That makes it very vulnerable to criticism.

A friend had her writing attacked online by a vituperous reader. The person who criticized was nasty with her words, attacking the writer’s abilities. It was not done in a way that gave constructive criticism even. This was very hurtful and stopped her in her tracks for a time.

I remember showing my first attempt at an oil painting to a new friend who was taking art lessons through correspondence. I had copied a painting of some dolphins on a stormy sea, jumping through fog. It was quite monochromatic and done in blues.

“Oh, no,” she said. “You painted them wrong, your strokes should go around them to show their roundness and not straight along their sides. And your sky should be smooth, not rough.” My artistic spirit withered on the spot.

I put my painting away for a year. Then I met someone who taught lessons for free in her home, just for the joy of it.

“You did just fine,” she said. “A smooth sky is the mark of an amateur. And your strokes show the movement of the dolphins.”

I was so encouraged I have been painting for 40 years and recently sold another painting, having sold quite a few over time.

Keep at the task, put yourself out there. Believe in your gift.

Portrait of Brenda Ueland, circa 1930;s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Ueland

Recently part of the time in our local writers meetings we have listened to an audio book, “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit,” by Brenda Ueland. She said self-trust is the most important thing.

She also said, “Mentally at least 3 times a day, thumb your nose at all jeerers…” She is very inspiring. “You must freely and recklessly make new mistakes.”

She talks about writing in a fury, and finding your true self. Then writing and the characters that people your stories will be believable.

She also says, “If you write a bad story, the way to improve it is to write three more!”

There are many more gems in her book, but those are some I wrote down as worthy of remembering, I thought.

Writing boldly while alone in our creative space, waiting boldly for the right idea to come, and presenting it boldly to the world, these are goals to be cultivated by writers.

And as a lesson to ourselves, learning how to respond to our fellow writer’s boldness. If we write a critique or give a verbal one, we must not kill the boldness, but nudge it and nurture it in the right direction.

If we see a need for more conflict, we can say, “I wonder what would happen if you showed more conflict? Maybe in the relationship between John and his mother.” Or, “have you thought of describing the weather in that scene and showing how the character being chilled might cause her to act?”

Asking questions, wondering out loud, and never stomping on someone’s baby in a brash manner, can bypass our defense mechanisms and cause much more thought about doing something differently by the person we are talking to, then killing the creative urge.

As Ueland, who died in 1985, puts it, “The only way to love a person is by seeing them and listening to them. By doing this you keep the poet alive and help it flourish.”

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21 Responses to Be Bold, Believe in Your Gift

  1. Wranglers says:

    Loved this thought provoking blog. I understand. I was in a very active artist group, there were about 30 of us at one time, it took several weeks for me to get the nerve up to take one of my paintings in to show. A couple of the artists tore it to shreds, in the name of CRITIQUE. I called it criticism. It zapped me for a long time and it was over a year before I shared another painting with them. I also got a horrible review from someone who I could tell had not read the book. Why was he so mean? Luckily, I am strong enough to get over this, but some authors may not be. You shared some useful information that I hope all people follow. Thanks Cher’ley

    Like

    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thanks Cher’ley. Criticism instead of critique can be a fine line, and can stop our flow of genius! Stifle our gift! And doesn’t usually encourage us to overcome, although I have known managers who believe it will. And we have to remember it comes from insecurity and jealousy sometimes from a heart that may not even recognize why they are that way. I am glad you are strong enough to overcome! You are such a wise and generous person. It shines through your writing and sharing your blogging.

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  2. Thank you for posting this Neva. I liked the words of Brenda Ueland and plan to do some research on her writing style and teaching. I think the core of your post is to believe in yourself no matter what. It’s hard sometimes, but something we have to hold on to through the storms of criticism, poor sales, writer’s block and promotion. I, for one, appreciate the information and uplift you have given me!

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thanks Linda. Ueland is very inspirational to listen to and I bet she would have been great to have as an instructor. It is hard; our spirits can be crushed so easily. I want to have the spirit of a two year old many times. They don’t seem to know the meaning of the word “No” or “You can’t do that!”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad all your efforts and constructive criticism paid off. I hope you have continued success.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    So true, Neva. I was blessed with a family that nurtured me and even if I gave up for a while, their lessons stayed with me. I tell myself, I was given these gifts for a reason, and if I don’t use them, I will loose them. It’s like slapping the face of their creator. Doris

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  5. Great post, Neva. Sometimes we have to reminded to trust our art. Thank you.
    – Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike Staton says:

    Good post, Neva. The online universe is full of vipers ready to inject their poison. I don’t really participate in FB author groups. When I look at comments, so many are nasty. I do run my novels through the website of an online writers workshop. Sometimes the reviews are helpful, sometimes they’re useless. The ones that are special, I have worked to establish working relations with those fellow writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thanks Mike. Those are good observations. I think we have a tendency to believe negative comments and take them into our spirits more readilly than positive ones. And to believe anything we see in print. I am amazed at some online comments too. Glad you sound able to decipher what’s helpful and what to throw out. You sound wise.

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  7. Nancy Jardine says:

    Good points to keep in mind, Neva- I especially think the one about after a ‘less successful piece of writing’ write at least 3 more might just be the answer. Of course, that also means making the time to do so! 😉

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Yeah, but how affirming that you can write! IT’s so hard to remember, for me, that the first piece of writing isn’t or doesn’t have to be brilliant! Ha. So, to write 3 more might have a lot of positive after-effects.

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  8. Morris Iszler says:

    Loved this post. Lots of wisdom written there. Thanks.

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  9. S J Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing. I think most artist are rather private and we all need a bit of courage to share with the world.

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  10. I think you touched upon what a lot of us writers feel. That we’re not good enough and we don’t have enough trust in our abilities. I know I’m very guilty of that. I fear what I’m writing is rubbish and it’s so important to have a support group you trust and who offer constructive critiques rather than just bash it. I totally agree with Brenda Ueland: “Self-trust is the most important thing.” Thanks for a very encouraging post, Neva!

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thank you Sarah. Whether introvert or extrovert, I think a lot of us writers have this lack of self-trust in common. And of course, the critiques are not helping! On of my signatures on my emails is a quote: Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.
      – Isaac Asimov

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  11. Joe Stephens says:

    I think I probably don’t show my writing to more people before I publish because I fear they will point out what I fear–that I really can’t write. 😦 Thanks for reminding me to quit being so afraid.

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  12. Great, inspiring post, Neva! I’m glad Cindy brought that audio book to our last two sessions — I believe we’ve all garnered some pearls of wisdom, and found much inspiration from it. Thanks for all the wonderful reminders about being a writer, being bold, and not being such a cynical critic — you’re right: our babies are precious! 🙂

    Like

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