No-one Builds a Statue to a Critic

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt (I encourage you to click on the link and read the whole speech).

I prefer to be a professional as opposed to an artiste when it comes to writing.

Thing is, it seems that a certain level of artistic temperament bubbles out anyway.

I find the first draft phase of a novel exhausting mentally, and that carries over into other things. When I wrote my last novel, that’s really all I did — write. It was terrible for my health, and I gained about 20 lbs in the process. I cannot afford that, so this time around I’m being a lot stricter with myself about exercise and eating habits.

And I’m still fucking worn out.

I find that I’m becoming impatient with a Special Sort of art critic. No, not the professional. Not the person who has an art1 and diligently practices it. I genuinely believe that critique and analysis is a part of the process. It’s important to good art.

It’s the person who sneers at something not being good enough (without the bother and work of actual critical analysis) and does not go regularly to his art2. It frustrates me, even though it has little enough to do with me in the end. But I often feel indignant, especially when I’m tired and want to sleep, but I need to finish a scene to keep up with my production schedule, and I’m wishing for coffee, but don’t dare because I want to sleep enough to be able to get through the next day.

I’m not special in this. There are millions of people every day who go to a project because they love it, they believe in it. They put calluses on their fingers from guitar strings, knowing they’re never going to be “richnfamous”. They write fanfic they can never publish because they love a world someone created. They dance even though they’re not skinny enough that people are going to want to see them perform. They make their fucking lunchboxes works of art, because the creative drive is that strong in a human.

This isn’t a fluffybunny thing. Bleeding into lambswool in toe shoes ain’t fluffy, and neither is slugging back the espresso and writing after the kids go to sleep. It ain’t fluffy to stay up all night filming a scene and trying to keep your actors from getting hypothermia, and it ain’t fluffy to court hypothermia to be in the scene!

I think of that and then find sneering and eyerolling really, really pathetic.

1For myself, I don’t believe that art is something that has a narrow definition or that you have to be a painter, writer or musician to count as an artist. A cook can be an artist. I can think of someone on this filter that most certainly makes excellent art out of food — especially cake! Knitting is a wonderful marriage of art and craft. I talk about my mother a lot, who makes the act of living an art, surrounding herself with pretty, creative and graceful things.

2 I’m sorry to say I know someone who is excellent at critical analysis, but uses it as a bludgeon to beat work down rather than a growth-promoting thing. I find it painful and sad to watch his waste of life.

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