April 27, 2010
Bluebonnets are blooming in the fields and along the highways so I’ve been remembering a trip to the Dallas Museum of Art a couple of years ago. I was one of the drivers and chaperones for a field trip my son’s class took to see a collection of paintings by Julian Onderdonk. He’s an American impressionist who painted landscape scenes, many of which feature bluebonnets. This has me thinking about a simple, powerful lesson from his biography.
April 25, 2010
People who react with hostility to any criticism have a handicap. This is a key hallmark of a fragile self-esteem that, ironically, presents as self-adoration. Named for the mythological character who fell in love with his own reflection, the condition is called narcissism.
Sadly, some people think that in order to avoid this self-absorption, they have to give value to anyone else’s evaluation. Truth is, many people give their opinions freely although they don’t have the context or background to make their opinions useful. Others go the other direction, coloring their remarks with niceness and softening any criticism to the point of being useless.
It’s important for people who want to improve themselves and grow in meaningful ways to learn how to evaluate evaluations – how to critique other people’s critiques. When I was in a professional writers’ group for a few years, read-and-critique was part of our weekly meetings. I was taught early on that the thing to do with other people’s critique was to record it. That was it. Not arguing or defending our writing or criticizing the person giving the critique, but simply writing it down.
We were taught to consider the usefulness of the critique later, when we weren’t feeling defensive or emotional. We were taught to consider the comments rationally. Does that comment make sense? Does it show an awareness of the context? Does it follow general rules of quality narrative, or dialog, or action scenes? If a comment generated a lot of defensiveness, we were taught that might be the best gem. It might show us where we were overly devoted to a particular phrase, or where we had a habit we were “in love with” as a writer that really wasn’t working for the reader.
When we decided to set aside a piece of critique as irrelevant or not helpful, it was for a reason. Maybe the comment came from someone who didn’t realize the confusion was addressed in a prior passage. Maybe we discussed the feedback with someone else whose judgment we trusted to be completely honest and relevant and heard that person say the critique was off-target.
Knowing how to critique the critique we get is huge. This was the topic of one of Seth Godin’s recent blog posts. Read it and add these ideas to your toolkit for evaluating other people’s evaluations of you.
April 6, 2010
“To me, the insane thing would be to reach for the stars and believe it’s going to get you somewhere. I think you’d be better off reaching for a telescope and aiming it in their direction.” ~ Ken Robert
Ken shows us how the greatest achievements have happened because people reached for things within their grasp. Since I work with people who focus so much on the big idea they stumble trying to figure out next steps, I’m happy to be able to pass this along.
Vision engages our minds and our hearts, but the next step engages our hands. And nothing happens until our hands are involved.
Here is Ken’s post. You might as well stay at MildlyCreative.com a while and read some other posts once you’re there.
April 5, 2010
I have to point you to some amazing insight on living a life of purpose and self-direction, told from personal experience by a gifted writer.
Beth Erickson is a freelance writer who publishes an e-mail newsletter for other freelancers. Usually she writes about writing techniques and sources of inspiration. But this time she wrote about a main them of The Twisting Road – life and work design.
Specifically, she wrote about the unintended detours we take when we’re trying to follow our calling and get tripped up.
Click here to see her current newsletter and scroll down to Feature Article: “What if My Whole Writing Career Has Been Wrong?”
What are you waiting for? Click! Read!
April 2, 2010
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s the time of year we’re asked to think about the work that some people do all year, helping families at risk of abuse and neglect and helping children heal from the trauma of abuse. That means it’s the time of year for me to talk about The Parenting Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
Child abuse prevention isn’t very glamorous. Working with children who are victims of abuse is tough, demanding, draining work. People don’t want to think about that. This makes it really challenging to come up with a way to ask for donations. But I still want to ask you – will you be a champion for a child?