Criticism Will Kill Your Talent

Ever hear of a woman named Brenda Ueland? 

She was before your time, and mine. And she did not mince words. 

“I hate orthodox criticism,” she wrote,  “…small niggling, fussy-mussy criticism, which thinks it can improve people by telling them where they are wrong, and results only in putting them in straitjackets of hesitancy and self-consciousness, and weazening all vision and bravery.”

Oh, she’s not done. 

“…I hate it because of all the potentially shining, gentle, gifted people of all ages, that it snuffs out every year. It is a murderer of talent. And because the most modest and sensitive people are the most talented, having the most imagination and sympathy, these are the very first ones to get killed off. It is the brutal egotists that survive.” 

Hot damn. She’s right. 

This passage comes from one of the most beloved books on writing and art ever written—“If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit.”  

She wrote it in 1938, but it’s as relevant now as ever—maybe more so. 

Ueland isn’t just speaking to “writers” (authors, journalists, etc). She’s speaking to anyone who’s ever had something to say. (Um, that’d be you.) 

I don’t think any of us is ever “out” of stories or ideas. We just stop seeing them. Or we don’t slow down long enough to let them hop on board. 

We whiz by them and say, “Yeah I should swing back around at some point and pick that one up. That’s a good one.” 

But we don’t. We’re busy. We’re leaving our best stories and ideas stranded at a goddamn bus stop.

As a consultant, I make my living by helping individuals and companies expedite the process of metabolizing their messaging, and getting it out there faster. 

And as a workshop leader, I help groups find their flow in the moment and tap a deep vein of creativity, right then and there—without judgment. 

Because criticism is a bitch. A lot of us (me included) are struggling with Stockholm Syndrome for the people who were most critical of our work. 

I won’t call them talent murderers because they don’t always set out to kill. They’re trying to “help.” They’re “just being honest.” They’re being practical. But in fact, what they’re doing is stomping on your very soul just as it’s starting to sprout brave little leaves.

Ueland writes, 

“The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: ‘Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out.’” 

….YESSSSS. That’s it! That is IT. If you have that in your world, your circle of colleagues or friends, your pals from school, fantastic. Get together. Even virtually. And share your stuff, rather than fix it. 

Or, you can come hang out with us. Because this is PRECISELY what we’ll be doing, all day, at the Pop-Up Story Salon in Austin, Texas, on Monday 9/16: 

Creating a productive, creative, criticism-free environment in order to surface your best work. 

>>Click here to read more about the Pop-Up Story Salon (limited to 12!) on SEPT 16th

Do you have to be a writer? No. 

You just have to feel that impulse to create, to make something that matters. 

You might have a thing you want to write or speak about, a business or brand to run, a new product to launch. Don’t care what it is. You need the story. This is just the place.

Do you have to know what you’re going to work on? No again. The magic of this experience is not in agenda or prep. It’s in the experience itself. 

(Click to read more about what we’ll do and why it matters.)

Come create with us in a fun, productive, safe, creative environment with likeminded, openminded people who want to dig in for a whole day and catch a flow they can ride for weeks. 

Seriously, check it out. I’d love you to join us. Participation is strictly limited to 12 so that everyone gets attention to their work. So don’t wait.

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