What guides you: the reviews others give to you or the reviews you give to yourself?
As an Artist – and an author who´s passionately exploring that “other” side of the river” – how much I let other people´s opinion affect me has always been a daily issue. It gets worse when you´re a professional in whatever craft you practice: if you live for and from your job/craft, what others think of you is a crucial survival matter, not just a relative opinion you may (or not) take to heart.
The fact that I´m kind of immune to compliments and negative critics as well has been a bonus, most of the times. I must also admit that I´m my worst critic and no one ever pointed a finger at my work the same way I always do – please try to compete with me on that one and I´ll show you what a CRITIC really looks like.
This doesn´t mean I don´t appreciate intelligent, constructive criticism: I do. A serious, well intentioned and informed exterior look on our creative work can show us sides of it we, too involved, cannot see but this cannot shape the direction where the flame* flows.
This is not a new game for me: I´ve been under scrutiny since I was 5 years old (performing Classical Ballet) and haven´t slowed down for a second. I´ve been judged as a performer, teacher, orchestrator (of my own band in Egypt), choreographer, once upon a time actress and, more recently, as a published author (“The Secrets of Egypt- Dance, Life & Beyond” and a Trilogy coming out very soon). And it doesn´t get easier as I pursue newer and higher mountains: you could fairly affirm I expose myself to criticism with strange willingness.
The thing is an Artist does what he/she does for the sake of its inevitability – it´s a CALLING: an urgency: you HAVE to do it, to express it, to dance it, to write it, to say it out loud. I doubt any other purpose comes from a true artist – there are way too many attention seekers commonly mistaken by artists.
As I meet potential publishers for my new book (a trilogy you will not miss!), I face – once more – the review dark cloud. Should I feel glad and honoured because several publishing houses showed interest in my book in less than a month after I sent them the manuscript? Should I trust their judgement – may that be positive or negative? Should I feel bad if some other publishing houses refused the book for whatever reasons they presented?
Maybe it´s just the dettachment that comes from life experience; maybe it´s lucidity: somehow, I don´t care anymore. Well…yes, I MUST care at some level because I need people to enjoy what I do (publishers, readers, dancers, sponsors, etc); if there´s no audience for my work, there will be no work in the long run. But not too fast, not too much, not too hot: I thank for the appreciation and feel happy for the reception all areas of my profession(s) receive around the world but I simply cannot allow it to be the PURPOSE of my Creation, otherwise I become a slave and not the FREE human being I need to be in order to CREATE.
Check out the reviews on Literature Master Pieces (images in this post and Virginia Woolf´s comments bellow): outch! Those hurt. How would these authors feel if they had read these reviews? (Did they read them?) Would they allow these critics to shake their confidence and throw them into a valley of self-pity and misery? Would they nod, shrug and move on, untouched by others´opinions?
The truth is no one can control what other people think or say, aside from the fact that the majority (or the “specialists”) aren´t always right. I read shitty books which are world best sellers and I see terrible dancers/actors/teachers who are celebrated as stars. Where´s the logic, the criteria, the common sense? Answer: there is NO common sense. Deal with it. Embrace madness, chaos, layers of meanings, different dimensions: Mystery. Do what you have to do with all your might, passion and integrity -the world will (eventually but not for sure) follow.
For an Artist, creating is a compulsion – it WILL happen, independently of what others like or don´t like at a specific moment. I pray this FREEDOM never leaves me.
VIRGINIA WOOLF ON James Joyce: “I finished Ulysses and think it is a mis-fire. Genius it has, I think; but of the inferior water. The book is diffuse. It is brackish. It is pretentious. It is underbred.”
VIRGINIA WOOLF ON Aldous Huxley: “All raw, uncooked, protesting.”
VIRGINIA WOOLF ON Henry James: “I am reading Henry James… and feel myself as one entombed in a block of smooth amber.”