Honestly, when’s the last time you accepted someone’s honest opinion about your craft? I’m not referring to fans or strangers primarily, but the people closest to you?  Did you cringe? Did it go through one ear and out the other? If you were highly sensitive about your work, more than likely, no one was able to share their perspective on your art. Walking on eggshells probably described their interaction with you when giving constructive criticism. I don’t blame you for being protective about what you do well, but how will it grow if it isn’t fed the right nutrients? If you haven’t heard already, external input helps amplify the development of your art.

Having extra eyes always help. When you’re playing any sports, your teammates go out of their way to warn you about any advancements concerning the opposing team. They don’t want you to be blindsided in anyway. Imagine what music would sound like from your favorite artists if no one contributed input during their studio sessions. That’s hot can’t be applied to everything.  As a writer, one thing we must undergo is the concept of writing workshops. This is an opportunity for our work to be read by other writers so they can give their honest opinion about our pieces. It is one of the scariest, yet exciting experiences a writer can undergo. It humbles your esteem if you assume that you were born to write like Shakespeare, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, or Robert Frost. It also reminds you of your capability, for it encourages others to press their potential and reach beyond their limitations.

A no doesn’t necessarily mean a no go.  It’s more like a slow down. When people tell you that, they want you to make sure you’ve examined all aspects before finalizing your work.  It’s good that you cradle your art like a newborn, but eventually, you’ll need help with feeding, changing diapers, and tending to their varied needs…and what better way to proceed than to have an extra hand?  When an observer of your work is being honest, it’s not for their sake, but for yours. They want you producing at your best. Their honesty is an extension of their investment. If they saw no value in who you are and what you were doing, their contribution would be least to none.  If anything, be concerned about those close to you giving opinions opposed to others who give no response to anything you do. 

Getting accustomed to my fiancé’s opinion about my work, initially, was the hardest thing to experience. Realizing that it came out of love and respect allowed me to accept the reality that others value what I do opposed to only myself. She tells me often that she’s a fan of my art with zeal and affection. It’s not just because she’s the closest to me. She is a talented vocalist and songwriter whose voice melts my spirit with every note she sings, so to receive admiration from her is definitely a privilege, let alone criticism. Honestly, you should let others be honest with you as you construct from the building blocks of your gift.  Would you disregard advice from Justin Wheelon if you were directing your first film? Would you demote wisdom from Anthony “Sleepy Eyez” Carter while trying to perfect your spoken word performance? I don’t think so.  Be honest with yourself by allowing others to be honest with you.

- Calvin Pennywell, Jr.