The truth is I’m learning steadily how to handle things. The truth is I’m beginning to understand more and more why the successful people don’t get involved too much in defending or explaining their work. Like GD says, you can be an artist or a lawyer. You can’t do both, well, at the same time.

I feel myself slipping back to crippling perfectionism. Five times I tried to publish things I’d created this week, but something tipped me back over the edge of “not good enough.”

In the beginning, an artist needs the seed of creativity nourished. He or she does not need to be picked apart. This is something I learned from being the one who used to pick things apart. I thought I was doing a service, helping someone improve. Of course I would do it as kindly as I knew how, and I thought that made it okay.

When I switched to creating more and consuming less, I finally got it. The artist doesn’t care about this awkwardly long sentence or that typo or that lack of outlining. The artist cares only for the collaboration with Muse, with creative spirit, with the life force, whatever you want to call it.

The child in the sandbox makes something and says (in his or her own childish words), “Lookie here, what strange mud pie! Isn’t it bizarrely wonderful?” and then moves on to the next mud pie. The love affair with the first mud pie is promptly over, needs no revision, in his or her view, and the creative energy moves on through him or her.

I can’t complain, for it was my own fault. My ego invited criticism, knowing it’s also good for me. The head of the Buddha cut off, again and again.

Return to mud. Thou art but small. Thou shalt continue making mud pies, knowing they aren’t much at all. It’s the quantity that matters. “Go forth and multiply.”

It’s the only way to survive, as an artist.

I learned long ago to love my critics. I won’t blame them, for I invited them, in the very act of being creative and sharing my work. But I don’t need to allow their words to silence me, either.

Return to mud, and muddle on.




  • Image: Photo by Karen Maes on Unsplash
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Ep. 209: Show Up Before You’re Ready featuring Glennon Doyle
  • Why must I cut off Buddha’s head? Quora discussion
  • What Are You Willing To Allow? by Dr. Perry
  • A project that celebrates muddling: MUDDLE on Github

11 thoughts on “RETURN TO MUD

  1. In five years of blogging, I can count the negative comments I’ve received on one hand, and wow did they each sting. But also, they were all completely accurate and I grew from them. I just read your bloggers I love post, and while I’m not inviting negative comments, I too am grateful for the ones who criticize.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Jeff. And yes, although criticism stings, I truly truly am grateful for the blogging friends who dare to thoughtfully criticize or question. And of course deeply grateful for the ones who sustain the work, by “liking” or praising.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My struggle has been to value the critic without letting it be the only voice I hear. It’s a useful voice once I’ve got, say, a first draft. It lets me back away and think, yeah, there’s something here, but it’s not working yet. I rewrite a lot, and when I do I can see the writing become sharper, cleaner, stronger. You know–all those adjectives. But initially, I have to lock that damn voice out of my head so I can get that first draft–that mud pie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Ellen, hi! I love your comment.

      I just went and checked out your blog and I got fascinated by your piece “The hazards of professional virginity” (what an amazing, attention-grabbing title by the way). For anyone else interested:

      Anyway, I too am a re-writer, in my case sometimes to the point of being compulsively so. I agree about the first-draft mud pie being the most essential time to lock the critic voice out. Being able to do that is a skill I seem to waver through in seasons. […]


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