I rapidly scoop sand into my bucket. It’s moist and grimy between my fingers, but I don’t care; in fact, the wetter the better is what I say. I’m building a masterpiece, a sculpture for the whole beach to see. It’s nearly finished now; I’ve been slaving for hours, making sure each sand particle is precisely where I want it. Sometimes moving quickly, other times taking it slow and steady, but constructing something beautiful.
I can feel the anticipation now. I can’t wait to show everyone, people are going to love it! How could they not?
It’s part of my soul laid out for the world to experience.
I turn the bucket upside down with a plop, and the last piece is attached. I carefully shape and pat it until it matches the rest and I stand back. Perfect!
I excitedly call people over to see what I’ve done. They come glance it over, as I wait with anticipated breath. Finally they shrug and say, “It’s good, but…” and the criticism comes. The left tower isn’t as round as it should be, the right wall a bit small, the sand a little dry. I start to realize that this beautiful thing I’ve created, poured all my energy into, is flawed – and doesn’t that then mean that I’m flawed?
I feel like this is how we often treat art. With the rise of social media and the digital age we have the power to sit behind a screen, with a keyboard at our fingertips, and trash the work of others without a single thought as to how it might affect them.
I’m guilty of this, just as much as anyone else. Even as an artist myself, I nag and tear at things, forgetting that the thing I am judging, somebody put energy and love into. Someone took their time, their thoughts, their heart and worked it into something they felt brave enough to share with the world. And in one single swoop I’ve torn it down, laughed at it, made it the punchline to a joke.
Imagine a child that has just finished drawing a picture. They bring it to you for review, pride gleaming in their eyes, excitement thundering in their chests. You take it, look it over and praise them for their work. You then hang it on the fridge for everyone that comes through your house to see. What you don’t do is tell them the green they used for the grass is the wrong color, or that the size of the tree leaves don’t match the rest of the picture.
Why of course not, you’re thinking, they are only children. But aren’t we all just children when we create?
Aren’t we all just trying to express our individual creativity through the things we make, just as we did when we were kids? The truth is, we’re all just playing in the sandbox of life. Building castles, getting our hands dirty, and looking to be inspired. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all treated art this way? I’m not saying you have to like everything, no, of course not. You are still going to favor some things over others. But this age of threatening criticism, where suddenly everyone has a voice to tear down what others have built or rate them on a five-star scale, can’t be helpful to the creative spirit we all have inside.
I think we spend too much time judging and not enough time enjoying. What if we changed that? What if we vowed to see someone’s effort and energy when we saw art instead of looking for ways to bring it down, and often subsequently bring us up. Like it, don’t like it, add it to your favorites or set it aside, but remember that someone had a vision for that work, someone thought it was wonderful, just like a child building a sandcastle or drawing a picture, and maybe if we looked with different eyes we might see something wonderful too.