4 Questions to Answer Before You Bash Critics of Your Creative Works

“We have met the enemy and they is us.” — Ashleigh Brilliant

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We want people to love our creative works, but find critics dislike them. People refuse to look at or listen to or taste our works. Sure, critics are often wrong. But not always.

Here are 4 questions to answer before you react to your discouragement. Your honest answers will make your next creative work soar.


Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Did you focus on how the audience should be, instead of how you should have performed?

When I was a new Children’s leader for Bible Study Fellowship, I wanted to pray for good children’s behavior. The experienced leaders surprised me when they, instead, prayed for leaders’ creativity to handle the behavior problems.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I focused on learning ways to handle situations, instead of hoping children would be something they aren’t. I worked to create engaging stories and activities appropriate for their age.

The children reacted in positive ways and learned more when I concentrated on how to work with their wants and needs.


MP9002891982. Did you offer your work to the wrong audience, instead of to the very ones who would embrace it?

When I entered the world of writing fiction, I thought if I wrote a good story well, everyone would love it. A book on writing book proposals surprised me when it asked: Who is your audience? I answered: The world. Okay, women and some men. But during an editor appointment at a writers’ conference, the editor asked me to define my audience. “Women and some men” fell flat.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. Writing wasn’t about me; it was about readers. I learned about niches. Not every woman loves novels about horses or young love or mid-life crises or murder or prairie life.

I learned reducing the world to the right niche still left scads of readers hungry for stories they adore.

?????????????3. Did you try to own your work, instead of giving it to the people for whom you said you created it?

I dreamed of a Christian library in our community where people could enjoy current Christian resources and fiction. Over a year’s time with the help of others, I worked to create a Christian library at our church. I expected members to check out the work in progress. When few did, I asked my husband why more members weren’t interested. Maybe the work wasn’t worth it. My husband’s answer surprised me. He said only a small percentage of people (about 15% of Americans) read books on a regular basis.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I had wanted to give readers and teachers a wonderful resource. The library wasn’t mine to hold back from the few who’d use it often and make a difference tapping its resources.

When I stopped worrying about “my work” and made the library the best for readers and Bible teachers, it was a success.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Did you compare yourself to your peers, instead of the standard of excellence?

Editors rejected my first books. One reason resulted from my wish to please everyone. I changed sentences in my manuscripts according to critique partners’ and contest judges’ feedback. In two different contests, the feedback from judges surprised me. Twice this happened: one judge disliked a line in my story and another praised that same line.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I had edited the life out of my stories trying to please everyone.

This understanding allowed me to use feedback wisely and to find my own writing voice to create better stories.

What paradigm shift have you made that improved the quality of your creative work?

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5 Reasons I Don’t Care I Lost Money Self-publishing

“Dare to be naïve.” —Richard Buckminster Fuller 

ID-10047143Two Self-published Books

In 1999 before I signed with an agent, I had twelve contemporary Christian short story ideas that came to me like shooting stars from heaven as I studied the Bible. I wrote the stories to explain to myself difficult teachings.

photoAfter giving dramatic readings of the stories, listeners encouraged me to publish them. I did, relying on The Self-publishing Manual by Dan Poynter and The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. I completed more than 35 steps in the publishing process.

At my marketing expertise level, 700 copies would’ve been sufficient, but I contracted 3,000 books printed through my company, Holy Ghost Writers Publishing. In 2000, I did it all again with 15 more stories and 3,300 books printed. Talk about naïve.

But over time, the stories, the extra books, and the publishing process have become a boon.

5 Reasons Self-publishing Pearls in the Muddle and Crumbled, Tumbled, Humbled—Saved Became a Godsend.

Reason 1. Self-publishing showed me how to find talented people-resources in my own backyard.

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the self-publishing process, a qualified Christian co-worker edited my books. My nephew created the illustrations. A family friend, a graphics designer, designed the book covers. Friends and family members contributed funds. Friends organized my first public dramatic readings. All shared my vision. Many would’ve worked without compensation if I’d let them.

Self-publishing prepared me for finding gifted people for my later dream project: creating a church library.

Reason 2.  Self-publishing taught me how to research an unfamiliar industry and hire business providers.

In the self-publishing process, I contacted Advance Book Information to list my books in Books in Print. I obtained copyrights, Cataloging In Publication information for the title page, ISBN numbers, and barcodes. I requested quotes from book printers. I scheduled bookstores for signings.

These tasks provided me experience for working with many business providers in building our dream house.

Reason 3. Self-publishing provided a basis for honing my public speaking skills.

MP900289528I reaped public speaking experience from my corporate job, but my dramatic readings expanded my skills. I presented to women’s groups in churches, at women’s retreats, at community centers, from church pulpits, and to youth groups. I learned the worth of incorporating spin-off ideas by developing a workshop based on two of my stories about prayer and offering participants my books.

Today, this experience helps me build my platform as a writer. My presentations and workshops on the writing craft and industry allow me to give back to other writers what I’ve received.

Reason 4. Self-publishing demonstrated I had the determination to be an author and speaker.

When I pitched my first novel to my agent-to-be, my self-published books showed her my commitment. They also emboldened me to get two stories published in an online magazine.

I include my self-publishing efforts in book proposals to publishers to show my perseverance.

Reason 5. Self-publishing provided an avenue to help others.

I’m aware of one person the stories led to Christ. People have used the books for devotionals and Bible studies. Many of those extra printed books are on bookshelves of new Christian libraries in English-speaking third-world countries through donations to a library ministry.

Image courtesy of anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over my 8-year involvement in a prison ministry, I provided the books to young male prisoners, who passed them on to fellow inmates.

The books provide me a meaningful gift I can give new friends, associates, and acquaintances. A fun medium for witnessing my faith.

What “faux pas” has turned into a bonanza for you?



How to Transform Your Dream into a Vision and Then into a Reality: Part 2

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” —Galatians 6:9


Last Thursday, we focused on the dream and the vision. Today, I’ll show how I transformed my vision of a church library into a reality.

Treat the execution of your vision as a process.

 1. Get Permissions.

I invited the Director of Education to my home. After serving her lunch, I sat her in an armchair in my library (a prior dream come true). Then using visuals, I presented my vision to replace our tiny, archaic church library with a larger, modern library. She promised to secure the go-ahead and permissions to revamp the abandoned youth room.

I think my success resulted from my preparation and passion.

 2. Do the Research.

  • My dream hatched from experiencing a Christian community library. The librarian gave me a tour and answered my questions for months.
  • I purchased cataloging reference books and read them.
  • My knowledge of Christian publishers helped me populate our shelves with Christian fiction and nonfiction.
  • My son suggested an inexpensive, excellent online cataloging service, LibraryThing.100_1270
  • I learned from long-term church members that hardwood floors lay beneath the soiled carpet.
  • The music director told me where to buy inexpensive area rugs.
  • My sister had a list of children’s books she maintained from her story time ministries.
  •  I gleaned favorite Christian books in various genres from members of a writers’ group who shared such lists on our email loop.

Taking time to listen to people who showed interest in my vision provided my best research.

3. Gather Resources.

  • My husband, my best resource, helped remove layers of soiled carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. He built a desk in the closet, creating the library office.
  • 100_1614The adult Sunday school class housed in the room helped us paint the room.
  • People inside and outside the church donated books.
  • Two like-new armchairs appeared from elsewhere in the church.
  • A gentleman who loved carpentry, built 9 bookcases and donated a child’s table.
  • The pastor moved reference books in his office to the library for everyone to use.
  • The supportive church secretary had a donated computer and Internet access installed in the library office.100_1612
  • The church’s women’s group bought many new books from my children’s list.
  • I sold duplicate donated books to fund new books.

When people saw and heard what I was doing and how I appreciated assistance, they supplied needed resources.

4. Manage the Work.

  • When the time to complete your vision seems endless, re-imagine its benefits and do the next thing. The library was useable in less than a year, but my vision took about two years.
  • When you hit roadblocks, turn to a different task. While I waited months for the room to become available, I set up in another room and cataloged books.

    To donate a children’s book, choose one of these “binders” and purchase the book or place the “binder” and a check in the envelope.
  • When you’re overwhelmed, break jobs into tasks. I had stacks of boxes of books to go through and decide what to reject and what to catalog. I applauded each empty box.
  • When peoples’ ideas threaten the vision, be tactful. Some wanted to use the comfortable library for meetings and Bible studies. When I explained that would prevent people from browsing and checking out books, the church limited extraneous uses.
  • When others’ ideas improve the vision, incorporate them. I reserved a shelf for the women’s reading program books.
  • When people help, let them know they matter. Several appreciated people became champions of the library.

I viewed quitting not an option.

5. Bring closure.IMG_0492

  • During the process, I wrote a library manual, which I used to train my successors.
  • Celebrate. The pastor held a consecration ceremony in our library.

What helped you transform a dream into a reality?

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