Sometimes criticism crushes me.
A one star review wrecks my day. An online barb served up via Twitter knocks me off course. A comment via email throws me for a loop.
Why do I get stuck so easily by random strangers and their words? Because I’ve confused my art with my identity.
That is a mistake.
Your art is not your identity. Your work is not who you are, it’s a byproduct of knowing who you are. The difference is subtle but critical.
If you believe that what you make is who you are, when people criticize it, you receive the criticism very differently. They are not commenting on your book or business or blog, they are commenting on your soul. Your very identity is up for grabs for the faceless Internet masses if you make the mistake of thinking you are your art.
You are not.
I am not.
I write books.
That is my work.
When someone criticizes my books, they have not criticized me.
They have commented on something I have created. Not who I am.
The challenge of course is that to create your best art, you have to put your identity into it. You must lean into it with your heart, opening a vein, pouring into the project with the very best of you are. But once it is created, once it is finished, you have to divorce yourself from it in a way. You gave it your heart, but you did not leave your heart with the project.
You took your heart with you. So that you can create something else with it next time.
That is the tension of art and life. In order to create something meaningful you have to put yourself into it, but at the same time you have to let it go.
Because that thing you made, is not you.
You are bigger than a book or song or a project or an anything.
Your identity is not up for grabs.
Your art is.
And those are two very different things.
Don’t forget that.