So says the Cowardly Lion in Oz when he sings about all the things he'd do if only he had courage. Courage is essential to success. I don't mean the kind of courage that helps you walk down a dark street at midnight or climb a ladder to clean gutters; I'm referring to a subtler kind of courage. It's the courage to try new things and be persistent when the going gets tough. It's the kind of courage that we have as children that often gets lost as we age: the courage to metaphorically stumble, fall, then get up and try again.
By the time we reach our middle years, we're supposed to know what we're doing, be accomplished in our various endeavors, be teachers rather than risk-taking learners. For anyone in the arts, however, there is no such luxury. (Except, of course, for the uber commercially successful who can get away with cranking out formulaic garbage.) Being creative means always striving to do something new, taking the risk that someone's reaction to your work might be, "That sucks."
That kind of criticism isn't constructive, and it's hard to hear. Sometimes, too, a particular criticism isn't even accurate. But more often than not, feedback from a respected source is true and valuable, and if you listen, you learn. When I offer a piece of writing, either a story or just a blog post, for critique, I really do want to know what people think. Being able to take criticism well has taken me a long time, but I've realized it is an essential part of maturing as a writer. I want to know what doesn't work because that is how I'll learn. I may not always agree, but I'll always listen. And if I ever become so commercially successful that I can crank out garbage, I'll still listen--all the way to the bank.
So until I'm made King (or Queen) of the Forest, may the great and wonderful Wizard grant me the courage to write, rewrite and rewrite again, and to be persistent as I follow my own yellow brick road.
Do I really need to say comments are welcome?