How to Find People Who’ll Sharpen You and Your Creative Work

“Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” —Proverbs 27:17 NIV

ironwedge

You’re tired of hearing what you want to hear and going nowhere. Deep down you know your creative work could improve.

Like a cotton ball can’t hone a sharp edge on cotton candy, fawning and insincere people can’t help you become a solid crafter in your creative field.

After many years, I’m becoming a sharp iron wedge with WRITER chiseled into my face. I’m grateful to those who’ve sharpened me. Here are the activities that honed me the most.

1.   Join Groups

Image courtesy of criminalatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of criminalatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In groups, you’ll meet experienced people who can sharpen you. These iron wedges frequent  groups to fine-tune their own chiseling edges and to mentor and teach others. So, join:

  • National and local groups
  • Conferences
  • Email or online discussion boards
  • Accountability groups
  • Character-building groups
Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tips:

  • Look for groups that:
    • Share successes
    • Promote one another
    • Share information and opportunities
    • Encourage each other
  • Seek participants in these groups who care enough to sharpen people with truth, excellence, and gentle firmness. Be ready to reciprocate.
  • Join groups outside your creative field. A friend writes stories with hockey settings. She took an 8-week hockey course.
  • Join groups that sharpen your character. For me, studies delving into Biblical truths and calling me to live up to God’s commands sharpen me.
  • Participate often in your selected groups and develop friendships.

2.   Seek People Who Will Sharpener You personally.

  • Critique partner
  • Mentor
  • Coach
  • Contest judges
  • Professionals

Tips:

  • Look for partners who care enough to sharpen you with truth, excellence, and gentle firmness.
  • Give your best in critique groups. Then invite one or two to team with you. Those who:
    Image courtesy of anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    • give their best back;
    • want you to succeed as much as you do;
    • you want them to succeed as much as they do;
    • give and receive constructive criticism well; and
    • are committed to the critiquing process.

  • Listen to contest judges or editors. If you disagree with them:
    • kill your pride and learn from them;
    • realize something hit the judges or editors the wrong way, and they made the effort to comment;
    • look deeper and be sharpened; and
    • relax—it’s you who decides how you’ll use their help.
  • Seek accountability partners who don’t let you off the hook. God is my first-line accountability partner, but my friends in Forward March help me also. Look for new partners who’ll:
    • review your goals and progress;
    • push you to move forward;
    • encourage you to dust yourself off and start fresh when you’ve had a bad week.

Being sharpened can be painful. But ultimately, chiseling through hard work successfully and sharpening others’ creative edges is a great reward.

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What did the person who sharpened you most do for you?

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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