New Year's Critics

So it’s the time of year when we think about New Year’s resolutions. Ugh.

(Let’s not talk about last year’s resolutions that were abandoned around early February.)

I know what my biggest goal for the New Year is. I want to write. I have wanted to write a book for a long time, but I don’t make writing a priority. 

Something about last week had me amped up. Maybe it was the time off work that led to increased headspace. I had new ideas flowing. I started jotting down ideas. I began re-living my grand visions of what it would be like to be a published writer.

Then a reality check: Some readers would agree with me, but surely some would not. I could already picture my inbox filling with angry words from grumbling people. There’s an Internet full of outspoken people who don’t hesitate to share their opinion, often anonymously, without any intention of civil dialogue.

Rejection is one of my ultimate fears. Inadequacy and self-doubt ….  I deal with these things daily. I don’t think I’m alone in this. And yet, I feel that if I wasn’t equipped to be a writer, God wouldn’t have given me this desire. I can’t shake it.

I’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this fear. So I turned to some great writers for some encouragement in how they deal with criticism.

Jon Acuff writes about how we should respond to a critic in his book Start. He writes that 1). Haters are inevitable but 2). My response is up for grabs.

My initial focus when confronted with a critic should be WHO is saying this? Is this person someone whose opinion I should even care about? Probably not. The approval of the people that I love should be all that I care about. The opinions of the people that I care about the most will tell me to my face.

Also, I need to think about WHY are they saying this? Does this person want a genuine conversation to uncover truth? Or does this person want to just bully anyone with a different opinion, drop a grenade and then leave?

In the words of the immortal Taylor Swift: People throw rocks at things that shine.

Brene Brown is one of my scholarly heros. She writes on vulnerability, shame, empathy. Her book, Daring Greatly, borrows its title from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt. I printed this out and tacked it up in up in my office so I can read it daily:

It is not the critic who counts;

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,

or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly; who errs,

who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms,

the great devotions;

who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,

and who at the worst,

if he fails,

at least fails while daring greatly.

This New Year, I want to write, and I want to succeed in writing. If I encounter critics, I’ll know how to deal with them. If I fail at writing, at least I tried.

Not trying at all would leave a greater hole in me.


Being All Mindful and Stuff

I spent New Year's weekend reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Wowza. Her BEST work yet) in an effort to work on my New Year's Resolution Numero Uno. My most favorite quote:

Hustle is the opposite of heart.

Let that simmer.

When you’re rushing/frantic/distracted, how much room is there really for feeling/awareness/perception? Hustle is the opposite of heart.

To me this book and its message screams of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a simple therapeutic technique whereby you quiet yourself, calm yourself, and focus on nothing but the present, the current, the right-in-front-of-you.

So over New Year's, we spent time with family in Indiana, and I read this book and I tried to practice mindfulness while quashing my eternal habit of mental list-making.

Because there are things that I don’t want to forget.

Like 1900s houses with odd layouts and secret passages and walls of windows.

Frosty root beer floats.

Barges under bridges.

Monopoly and Taboo and Twister and something called Catan.

Antique-store shopping for crystal necklaces and lavender soap.

The milky Ohio river with wind-tossed whitecaps.

Maple syrup on quinoa.

National Treasure. The first one.

Watching my son carve a spear from driftwood.


So, be present. Be mindful. Be positive. NOTICE THINGS. Soak it in, as they say.

Mindfulness leads to gratefulness which leads to happiness.