Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Great Joy of Criticism

…rock. Sometimes.

One of the hardest aspects of creating something, whether that is a novel or a blog post, is being criticised about your own creation. Because when you make it, it might seem the most perfect thing in the world to you, or something at least acceptable. Criticism, if not well-handled, acts as a swift, demotivating kick in the teeth. It’s why so many new writers, new bloggers, new artists, new <insert creative individual here> give up so quickly. They don’t yet know the secret of the successful people: criticism is the true chisel to your block of marble, not your own fanciful ideas and original ventures. That kick knocks you down, but to get anywhere, the frustration of it better make you get the hell up again.

Everyone’s been there. On WordPress, it’s the beginning of blogging and the stage where the novelty wears off, where you’re waiting for a like or comment. And one comes along, but it’s one of disagreement. Or you’ve settled on one topic for your blog, and someone comes along who says that they dislike the way you do things, that the way you write seems forced or unnatural.

And you get mad. Don’t deny it, you get mad.

Maybe you’re sure that you’re blogging about what you’re passionate about, and you think this guy’s obviously come to the wrong blog. And maybe you’re right, he has. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use his criticism. You can use it strengthen what you write, maybe to give readers notice about your blog’s focus, or to examine other opinions whilst maintaining your own. Because there is you, the blogger, and there is also your audience. Blogging is an exchange between blogger and audience, and wider opinion only means more is learnt and shared.

Many of you likely realise that I’m still working on my NaNoWrimo novel, which currently sits at around 59000 words. That may sound like a lot, but its still about 13000 words off my target goal. Recently I ventured back to an old writing support website I used to hang around, and posted a chapter excerpt to be reviewed. And I did get that kick in the teeth. And it was painful. Painful because I’ve kept the majority of my manuscript to myself, not shown it around to anyone, and somewhere in the process of writing I’d forgotten that creativity needs an audience. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I’m determined to correct my mistakes and keep on working. The same thing happens in my college essays, but each time I get up again to try again. Eventually, I’ll get it. Eventually, you’ll get it. And if even one new creative mind elsewhere could get it, then that’s one more artistic and individual mind we have in our society. One more person who did not give in.

And yeah, sometimes criticism is just not constructive. Sometimes its just a load of crap, and you’re justified in ‘accidentally’ deleting that comment. While there’s a great joy to be had in criticism, the joy of improvement, sometimes it’s easier to ignore something non-constructive than to get in a mutually-degrading shouting match with what is more often that not a childish troll.

On the Hardness of Life

Sometimes, the hardest things to think about are the things which truly matter.

So, to get right into it, I now know a grand sum of four people who have attempted to take their own life. One was a friend in high school. Twice. In her own words, it was a cry for help, help that she eventually, thankfully, received. She’s doing better now. I see her around college, she shouts my name (all my friends do this, actually) and we chat for a while. Another is a current friend in college. She has family problems, she’s alcoholic and she gets high every now and then. She’s 17. She has scars on her arms from cutting, a problem I’m literally forcing her to get help for, and she told me a few weeks ago that she’s tried to hang herself before, in her bedroom. Another time, she downed a bottle of pills. She said that sometimes it felt like her life was falling through her hands. It’s odd, it’s incredibly sad and somehow it is life that across the world people who have not yet seen it no longer want to.

I’m not suicidal myself. In our college’s debating society, the motion was put forward recently that suicide was an inherently selfish act. In my Psychology class, we’ve recently discussed both the biological and environmental causes of depression. Only a few days ago, Mindy McCready, a fairly popular American country singer, committed suicide after a long bout of depression in her life. So where am I going with this?

What do we do to help people who are suicidal or depressed? Should we do anything?

In a number of religions, suicide is a major sin against God. In societies across the world, people who have attempted it or families with a suicide amongst them are stigmatised. I’m not sure why. I’m not entirely sure if it’s right. Is it part of human nature to shun those who remind us of the ever-present presence of death?

I’m almost sure that a few of my readers will know someone who has or has tried to commit suicide. As one of my teachers said: ‘I’m 31 and it’s a sad fact that at my age, you probably know someone who has died that way.’ How have you reacted to it, or tried to help that person?

Personally, I don’t care for the supposed right or wrong of suicide. I care, though, about losing the people I’ve grown close to. It’s one of those areas in my life which I often feel I have no control over, because sometimes no amount of positivity can bring people back from the edge they’ve reached. Right, wrong; that’s a very sad truth.

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I almost feel I should apologise for such a heavy post after such a long absence. Unfortunately, though, while work has consumed much of my time, worry is a greater consumer. As I said above, sometimes we have to think about the hard things.