I used to work with someone who has the same degree from the same university as me. In one of those small world moments, we realized that since we graduated just a few years apart we probably passed each other on campus, but we don’t remember having any classes together. Every once in awhile we’d talk about some of our favorite teachers in our department and one day we were both raving about a writing teacher and as soon as we started to say his name we realized we were raving about the same one.
As we raved about him, the things we talked about most (other than how nice he is, cause he’s the nicest guy and one of these lessons should be “be like him”) are the things he taught us that weren’t even related to the craft of writing, but are life lessons that are beneficial to all. Here are three lessons for creatives.
1 // Give Yourself Your Title
If you make art, you’re an artist. If you write, you’re a writer. Take ownership of what you do and give yourself that title. What really stood out to me in class is that during our critiques he would talk about “the author.” This caught me off guard at first. I always think of an “author” as someone who’s published, but if you look up the definition of the word author in the dictionary it says: “a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.” and “to write, to be the author of,” among others. When he referred to me as the “author” during my critique, I allowed myself to take on that title. Once I referred to myself as an author, I also realized I could and should take my writing seriously. If I was going to take ownership of that title, I needed to do the work to back it up.
[Tweet “Take ownership of what you do and give yourself that title.”]
2 // Be Able to Take Criticism.
Criticism. It can hurt. You put your heart and soul into your painting or your song or your story or your blog post. And if someone criticizes whatever it is you shared with the world–or that one person who feels like the world–you’ll probably feel it and it usually doesn’t feel good.
But here’s the thing: not everybody is going to like what you put into the world. And that’s okay. We all have different interests and tastes. That’s what makes life interesting! So you need to learn how handle that criticism. You need to learn how to take the (hopefully constructive) criticism you need to hear so that you can grow and let go of the noise. Also remember: if someone shares criticism that’s mean and not constructive, it says more about them than it does about you. Don’t let their ish drag you down.
During our critiques we weren’t allowed to talk. This was so valuable because we weren’t allowed to get defensive. If a comment hit us wrong, we weren’t able to respond, so there were no heated exchanges between the author and the reader. (Particularly important in the day and age of the internet, where it’s so easy for an author to respond to a negative book review or for a blogger or YouTuber to respond to a negative comment or thread on Get Off My Internet. Just take a deep breath and let it go without getting involved in an exchange.) We also didn’t have a chance to defend our story in the face of criticism. Each reader will have an interpretation and their interpretation is valid.
3 // Always Eat Pizza
Okay, so he never actually said that, but he had a pizza party for my class and my coworker said he also had a pizza party for hers. The takeaway: treat yourself and celebrate the milestones, whether it’s completing the best writing class ever (😭) or having your short story published in the school’s art and literary journal, like a few of my classmates.
[Tweet “Always eat pizza, aka treat yourself and celebrate the milestones, no matter how big or small.”]
What are some creative lessons you’ve learned?
[Tweet “3 Lessons for Creatives (from the best writing teacher ever).”]
I love these lessons! The title and pizza ones are my faves. 🙂
I love the idea of giving yourself a title. I have always wanted to be a writer, but now that I have a blog and publish essays on it and in other places, I guess that does make me an author. Which makes me really happy! I’ll do whatever I can to continue living up to that title, too! Thanks for this, and for the suggestion to always eat pizza. Perfect!!
I find that consoling myself with pizza also works wonders. Or while in the midst of working. #magical Also, I’ve learned the big difference between connecting with and networking with other writers. When we connect, we think about how we can help them in their journey; in networking, we wonder how they can help us in ours.
All three of these things are such wonderful advice points. I love the idea of giving myself a title. I have obvious ones – wife, mom, etc. But I keep thinking of what a general title for myself could be. And I need to be better at taking criticism. I admit I very easily get offended when i’m handed a critique for something. And YES. ALL THE PIZZA!!!
How lucky you were to have such a great professor! I had to share the pizza tweet, celebrating the good things in life is something we need to do more!
What an amazing teacher (and not just because of the pizza party… though that’s like 25% of the reason)
I love the idea of OWNING your title. I never think to introduce myself as a blogger… though that’s what I am and I really should! I’ve earned that title!
Taking criticism is hard, but it’s a valuable skill if you can master it without getting your feelings hurt. You’ll improve so much better when you can take criticism for the subjective and well meant thing that it is
Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com
Love this. And that’s so awesome he had a pizza party for his classes. I took one creative writing course in college and I really didn’t like it because the professor was AWFUL, but I still consider myself a writer because I write. 🙂 I just want to be a PUBLISHED writer someday.
Love these tips. I’ve been working on the criticism one. It’s important to realize that the criticism is not directed toward you, and it can be applied positively to improve your work! Anddddd – yes to pizza!
YAAAAS GIRL, you KNOW that last one is my favorite – always always always eat the pizza. Treat yo’self!
Coming Up Roses
I love this – these are all great points. Giving yourself a title is a great reminder that there is value and importance in what it is you are doing and who it is you want to be. We often had the same discussion at University (I studied communications). Pinned this for inspiration/reminder!
Love the advice on pizza
As a writer, I really resonate with this. It took me a long time to call myself a writer, and even sometimes I still struggle with calling myself an author. But it’s important to make other writer friends and have a community of people who get you!
He sounds like a wonderful teacher! I like the comment about owning it. I’ve always been so hesitant to call myself a blogger or a singer.
Any article telling me to eat pizza I’m in for! And yes, I agree…celebrate wins!
I absolutely love this. It took me forever to start calling myself a Photographer rather than just saying “I do photography.” When I started blogging I made myself immediately start referring to myself as a blogger. Fake it till ya make it, right?
This is such a sweet and inspirational post. I am in the very beginning stages of my blog and I have so many plans for it. I have an aspiration of becoming an entrepreneur… I say…. but I already am! I am pouring my heart into this, and it’s all I can think of! I also made some revenue! Granted $5, but it’s something. Thanks for such kind words. They were almost just as good as Pizza. 🙂
Oh, this is so enlightening! Love the take ownership of what you do and give yourself a title. Have to apply that to myself so I can take writing seriously! Great post!
These are great tips but #1 is definitely my favorite. It’s so important to own our work. If we aren’t our biggest fan then who else is going to support us and take us seriously?!
Love your blog. Very helpful ideas here.
Oh my gosh, I loved these tips! Number 1 is crucial, number 2 is what i’m working on, and number 3…. is just epic 😀 thank you for sharing these tips XOX
This Professor sounds amazing! I have to say that he didn’t only offer you these three beautiful lessons but he must have done a great job at teaching how to write, as your post is well written and engaging! I really enjoyed reading it. As to the three lesson, I’m quite familiar with the first two as I used to be a Lecturer myself, but my forte is number 3 lol! Thanks for the good read 🙂