My column at First Things this week is all about the efficacy of the word “no” in our lives, and how deadening to the spirit and one’s own creative juices is can be to hear only praise, and no criticism:
Nothing quite so humbles as a tumble, and humility is often the deep place where creativity resides. When a successful artist or writer becomes so insulated from criticism that he never comprehends a failure, or when he has gone a decade or two without hearing the word “no” spoken in his direction, he has no friction, thus no traction; things become too easy. You hear an abundance of “yes” and very little “no,” and before you know it, you have nothing to say and no driving need to say it, so you coast on what you’ve done before. Think about it; what was the last great Steven Spielberg film? When was the last time Billy Joel of Stevie Wonder shouted out a tune you just couldn’t get out of your head?
The final copy ended up being better than the first, but I muttered at God quite a lot, “you think you’re so funny, O God of Ironies…”
Anyway, you can read it all here