I came across a comment by the singer, Bette Midler, recently which caught my eye. The caption was “Ignore the Critics.” (“Voices,” More Magazine, April 2015, pg. 51.) Surprised that the glorious Bette gave any thought to critics, I stopped to read what she had to say.
At some point in her career, apparently, one so-called expert was so brutal, the artist almost ended her career. “I couldn’t sing. Literally, my throat closed up, and it took me a long time to get my voice back.” (Ibid 51.)
Of course, no artist should give a critic so much power. Especially as we may know little of the critic’s qualifications. In my town, the dance critic never graduated from ballet school, never danced with a professional company, never made the chorus line much less had a supporting or leading role in any professional or semi-professional theater. She became a dance critic by wandering in to the local newspaper looking for a job and ended up with an assignment no one else wished to fill. Since that time, she’s behaved like a queen bee, waving her fragile wand over what, sadly, may be a dying art in America.
Fortunately for those of us who love Bette’s voice, she overcame her stumble. She “decided that I would make my own mistakes and I didn’t need an outside person to explain to me what I was doing wrong.” (Ibid pg. 51.)
There’s a young writer on my Facebook page with whom I’d like to share Bette’s advice. The woman is new in her career and bleeds over each rejection. What matters, I’d like to tell her, is what she thinks about her progress. Is she true to herself? Is she developing her skills? Can she marshal words across the page like soldiers focused on their target?
Apparently, she can. By last report, she’s won a writing contest and earned $200. May success give her a little faith in herself. That’s what matters. What are rejections, after all, but one person’s opinion? A writer has an opinion, too, and it’s the one that counts.