Dealing with criticism

Best Buds, 11x14, $1087, oil on canvasboard, available here.

This week I received another unsolicited critique. No, I’m not going to repeat it to you.

I recently heard about someone who saves hate mail to a designated file; they can be referenced if needed. ‘If needed’ is a chilling commentary on our times. Anyways, I’m not tough enough to keep corrosive cankers on my hard drive. I just complain to whoever’s nearby and delete them.

That hasn’t always been the case. When I received my first negative review, I cried for two days.

Apple Tree with Swing, oil on canvas, $2029 framed, available here.

Once you stick your head over the parapet and become any kind of public figure (and I’m not much of one) you start to get the occasional brickbat thrown your way. It’s going to come in the form of obnoxious messages and comments, bad reviews, or old-fashioned snark.

That’s no reason to not try to excel, but it does give me pause when thinking about the lives of famous people. Mixed in with the adulation is acid. It’s very easy to forget that these are actual people with feelings, rather than mere players in a public spectacle.

More to the point is the complaints that volunteer organizers regularly receive about events. How often do we consider the humanity of the person who arranged for tables, chairs, rain tents, food, jurying, etc. when we start kvetching about the labels and the lights?

In Control (Grace and her Unicorn), 24X30, $3,478, oil on canvas, available here.

The spectacular achievement of putting together a sustainable cultural event has been on my mind this year. Perhaps it’s because I count several such organizers among my friends. I’ve watched how hard they’ve worked.

One of them started her event fifteen years ago and has since handed over the reins. She still gets called regularly for routine tasks and questions. Another started her event this year. She’s small but tough, and that’s a good thing. She must have sent out ten thousand emails and answered a thousand questions by the time she was done. Not all of them were kind.

Beautiful Dream (Rockport Harbor), oil on canvasboard, 12X16 $1,449.00 framed, available here.

My dog is the mildest of creatures. He’s trained to heel, and he’s on a radio collar to remind him if he messes up. Still, I’ll occasionally encounter someone on the trail who hates or fears dogs. The other day, we passed a woman who snatched up her toddler and turned away, a horrible grimace on her face. Perhaps she was actually afraid, but what she was signaling was raw, palpable anger.

For the remaining 45 minutes of our hike, neither Doug nor I was in a good mood. We were waspish with each other and with the dog. That experience reminded me of how easily hostility is passed from person to person.

Constructive criticism is one thing, but snark has more to do with the critic’s internal settings than any real problems. If possible, just hit the delete button and purge it from your internal hard drive. Studies show that forgiveness is not just a religious mandate; it’s good for your health.

One Reply to “Dealing with criticism”

  1. Such insightful comments, Carol. Thanks for posting.
    Yeah, people—and the jealous—can be jerks. Unfortunately, the digital world makes this even easier. Carry on!

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