Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Self-Criticism

Have you ever heard of the composer Paul Dukas? Neither had I. Dukas was so self-critical that he destroyed most of his compositions. The score I heard last week only partially survived. Another composer had written parts so the music could be played as originally intended. Feeling that Dukas was a kindred spirit to many of us authors, I listened with interest and liked what I heard. How sad that he’d destroyed so many of his other works!

Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, also struggled with self-criticism. He threw the entire manuscript to The Power of Positive Thinking into the garbage. His wife rescued it from destruction. What a waste that would have been! Because he published that book, millions of people have learned to think more positively and blessed others’ lives because of it.

My latest issue of  The Humanities at BYU shared the account of  the
African American singer Sarah Vaughan:

Frank Sinatra, always the one for colorful descriptions, said “[she is] a singer who sings so good, I want to cut my wrist with a dull knife and let her sing me to death.” But despite her achingly beautiful voice, she suffered from persistent racism much of her life. On tour, she had difficulty finding hotels or restaurants that would allow a black woman. She later said, “They’re memories not easily erased, and at the time, I was ready to quit show business.” But instead, she transformed the pain and humiliation into a voice like warm honey poured over the soul.”

Discouragement seems to be a common thread in the life of artists. As I talk to writers who haven’t yet published their works, they often tell me they’ve been working on a book for years. Often they haven’t let anyone read it.

I suppose we could say we’re being humble when we keep our talents to ourselves. We tell ourselves we wouldn’t want to bother anyone with our inferior work. But I’ve come to look at it in another way. If God gave us talents, why aren’t we sharing them? Art has the power to bless others’ lives.  Maybe instead of feeling that it would be self-centered to share our work, we should feel that it’s selfish NOT to share our work. 

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