The Artist and the Critic. A bedtime story for creative souls.
When I first wrote my first book it was like candy floss, sweet and sticky. Sweet from the achievement, sticky from the imperfectness and the internal and external critics I faced.
Proud of my Dreamford story, I shared it with everyone I knew. Some clapped their hands just to acknowledge the work that had been done, some, despite not doing much beyond the minimum required in life, had most to say about what a story should be like. Then it was so funny to discover the split: those who have never done anything creative picked one word or sentence to criticise for the sake of it. Then, some who work the hardest on creating their own plans and goals said, “Wow, it takes courage to do something out of nothing.”
If you are working on something, find those who have done a lot – they will teach you about making a journey. Forget about the critics and keep going – most likely they have not got far or not even started.
Then a little story came to my mind about the Critic and the Artist…
Long, long ago, on a very cold day when the white mists were covering the meadows and rivers were steaming almost as they were giving their souls to the air, to the village of good people came a woman. She was indeed of fit body, with long golden hair and red-tinged cheeks. But her eyes were cold and the children of the village ran back home when they saw her, not wanting to take the sweets that she was offering. As she was walking through the village, she saw the Artist in her beautiful garden. The plants and herbs were all covered in frost that morning.
Oh, the Artist knew that woman very well from legends and stories that were told by the village elders. She was named the Critic, and she walked around the world curious about other people’s creations.
As she came to the Artist’s garden she walked inside. The Artist had not invited her, but she was so kind that she did not close her gates to her. The Artist came out of her home to meet the Critic in the garden. The Critic looked around her and said, “I have seen more beautiful gardens in other worlds. You don’t seem to care much, do you?”
And the Artist responded with a smirk on her face, “So, tell me, what do you like?”
So the Critic said, “You know, I like it when it is done better – prettier, more sophisticated – when it says something, when it teaches something, when you can admire it. Then my golden hair keeps growing. When I look at your garden, I see it’s empty, ugly, not enough.”
The Artist replied, “So show me your work. Show me how you act, how you sing, how you write, how you build things from nothing, how you create, how you build beautiful gardens. Show me the process, the thought, the inspiration, the love you put in, the work you do. Show me your fans, your supporters, your teachers, your masters. Show me the perfection.”
So the Critic said, “Sure I will. Let me go and find all you mentioned and I’ll prove to you what I mean. And I’ll come back and I’ll show you.”
And so she left the Artist’s garden and kept walking around the world, looking to show the Artist the perfection she thought she had inside her.
The Artist waited patiently. Created more, planted more, worked more on her garden, painted more, just as she felt like, used all the moments, hours, days and years to create more, learn more, do more, try more, fail better.
One day, when she was tired and old, the Artist died. Nothing special there – humans die.
On her last day on earth, when she knew the time was coming, she thought, “Let me go now, I am leaving my world in peace.” Before she went to her final sleep, her eyes were calm and content. She looked through all her art and the garden she had created and remembered the day when she met the Critic. She thought, “Ah, that person, not a friend but somehow a follower, with all the opinions and knowledge that the world had and she kept it to herself. I wonder where she got lost. I remember, years ago, the conversation we had, her mouth full of words, face full of young wrinkles, shoulders hunched over from bitterness. Her voice was very confident and strong, though, proud and powerful. Ha! But I never let her into my home, luckily.”
The Artist smiled as she recalled the day. “I wonder where she is these days. She promised to show me perfection in her work, promised to be back, but I never saw her again.” The Artist was now a beautiful old woman with warm eyes that kept their spark until they were ready to close forever. She brushed her long, grey hair and looked into the mirror, knowing that this is the final night. She touched her face softly, looked at her hands with sentiment and said to herself, “What a journey it was.” She went to bed and fell asleep with a tiny smile, as she knew that her life was ending.
Her soul saw her funeral, with lots of guests and pink cranes flying over the crowds, almost as if they were the stories, songs and art guiding her human body to the grave. As her body was buried, her soul saw a grave next to her own with a name on it. It read: “The Critic, died bitter, on a journey, so the legend said, to find all she preached, to show and prove perfection. She never found what she was looking for. She never did anything.”
The Artist’s soul looked at the earth once again and thought to herself, “I had a decent time here. Let me fly and maybe meet the Critic’s soul, unless she came back to earth to search for what cannot be found in creation: perfection.”
The scorching sun came to the earth and took the beautiful Artist’s soul to the rainbow to rest for a while.
Then the rain came, a child was born and got the Critic’s soul, to try and find what cannot be found again and again.
I trust stories and parables have special powers to heal us and inspire us in an unusual way. So if you like it - share it. But most importantly, keep doing your little crazy creative things. Despite what the critics say. Their souls are just starved and empty, and all you can do is to pity them and let them go. Possibly there is a journey ahead of them. xxx