Dealing with Criticism
Having many artistic friends (writers, musicians, actors etc.) on Facebook and Twitter I have observed that no matter how successful someone is, criticism and harsh commentary no matter how unwarranted can really hurt the receiver beyond reason. This little story should help some people cope with the most horrendous and cutting words.
I used to run a charity reading group for people recovering from addictions and homelessness. Each week I would give group members 7/8 pieces of prose and poetry to read and be ready for discussion the following week. The following poem, by Amado Nervo always created debate, but there was one session that will always live in my memory.
This particular week I asked members which piece they would like to start reading. Without hesitation David put up his hand and selected the Nervo poem. This in itself was a surprise as this was the 5th week of the course, and David had hardly said a word up until then. I asked him why he had chosen that poem.
“Because reading it has changed my life forever,” he replied. David then explained how he had been set upon and violently stabbed three years earlier, which had led to his current problems with alcoholism and his state of homelessness.
“I've had endless sessions for anger management problems and nothings worked at all, and yet I read this poem and all of a sudden everything made sense. My energies and pain had all been focused on the thorn, or in my case the knife. I realised I had to forget the thorn, the knife, the blood and most of all the hatred. I've stuck that poem over my bed. I'll read each and every day when I get up. For the first time I can see a positive future for myself.”
I am welling up just writing this. No matter what people write or say – forget those worthless thorns. If David can overcome his agonising thorns surely other people's vicious words can be cast aside.
If a thorn wounds me, I draw back from it;
I do not hate the thorn. If, hating me
Some base hand pierces me with malice blind,
Silent I turn away, and go to find a purer air of love and charity.
Rancour? For What?
Has good e’er sprang from it?
No wound it staunches, puts no evil right.
Scarce has my rose tree time to bear its flowers;
It wastes no vital sap on thorns of spite,
And if my foe should near my rose tree pass
He shall pinch from it many a fragrant bud;
And if he sees in them a vivid red,
And tint will be the redness of my blood -
Blood drawn by the ill will of yesterday
In hatred that it seemed could never cease,
And which the rose tree now in perfume sweet
Returns to him, changed to a flower of peace.
It was a strange and twisting road that led to the publication of my first novel. From my humble beginnings, as an office clerk, to ownership of a multi-million dollar business I always maintained my love for literature.
Born and raised in Bristol, England. I spent most of my life in business, my companies turning over in the region of $500 million. The majority of that time marketing cars, eventually owning the largest Saab specialist in the world, before a bitter divorce forced me rethink my priorities. Particularly between 2003 and 2005 when I had to accept that I was no longer a millionaire but literally penniless. I avoided bankruptcy by the skin of my teeth and slowly rebuilt my life.
This led me to the life changing decision to leave the bustling city and move to live halfway up a mountain in the Welsh valleys. At the same time I started a part time six year English Literature course at Bristol University, and attended creative writing classes at Cardiff University. I left school at sixteen and this was my first taste of further education and an immense challenge.
I eventually adjusted my thinking to the academic life, and on 30 June 2015 had confirmation of my 2.1(Hons) degree from Bristol University. At the same time I also won the prestigious Hopkins Prize for my essay on Virginia Woolf and the unsaid within her text. Now the university courses are finished it will, with any luck, gives me plenty of extra time that I can devote to my fiction writing.
Thanks to the university experiences, my interest in English literature has flourished over recent years. Hopefully I have evolved as a writer from my earlier work in short stories (over ninety of them.) Although interestingly my first three novels have all been developed from a long forgotten short story.
Life is, once again, very good, and I live very happily halfway up a mountain, in the Welsh Valleys, with my wonderful partner Mari, and our rescue dog Wolfie.
Goodreads Mike Ross