I am learning that praise stagnates. I would rather have a harsh criticism than a friendly pat on the head. Recently I received a blistering critique for one of my poems from a person whose opinion I value tremendously. Others defended me, praised my work, refuted his charges. His charge was that with first half the poem raised expectations, which I had failed to fulfill in second half. A serious charge indeed. Friends advised me to ignore him, the poem was good, as a poet it was my right to stick to my words.
I re read the poem, understood exactly what he meant, re wrote the second part- which totally improved the poem. It added a closure that the poem badly needed. When I mailed the revised poem to him, he loved the new version but what he admired even more was my ability and willingness to self critique.
When we write it shouldn’t be for a pat on the back, or even instant adulation. We must learn to assess our work dispassionately, comparing it only with the best. If I want to write Humour Let it be compared only with the best humour literature has to offer. My Dad has that attitude. Anytime I make him read my words, his cryptic comment always is- "I have read better".
At first I was hurt by it. I told him "Dad, it’s by ME ! I wrote it" demanding that pat.
He just said – "So ?"
Mediocrity in any form should feel like DEATH to a creative mind.
I realized that to gain my Dad's appreciation I better be in the same league as Mr. Twain or Leacock. A tall order? Of course, but how else will I improve?