That Which Does Not Kill You...

Have I ever told you the first professional reaction I received on a script? The first reaction I received to the first script I ever wrote, as a matter of fact. I wrote that thing like I was raising a child. I coddled it, stayed up with it at night when it was crying, and tried my best to change it whenever it stunk. Okay, so really that middle one didn't make sense, but given the personal nature of the project, there was some staying up late and some crying. Anyway, that first reaction I received?

"Who cares?"

That was it. The script was back in my hand and those words echoed in my ears. Who cares? Who cares? I care, that's who! Everyone who'd been through the same thing would care. The world would care. I'd show him. I'd show them all.

It's now three years later, and as best as I can tell, no one cares. My phone hasn't exactly been ringing to make the script that I believed would completely change my world. The script that would open the doors to stardom. The script that would make the girl I wrote it for come back to me.

At the time, "who cares?" were among the most hurtful words that were ever said to me. Now, they're among the most helpful. The past few days, I've sent a script that I felt awful about around to some of my friends, a script I was sure wasn't even funny to me, let alone anyone else. The feedback? Outstandingly positive.

I was shocked. How could anyone like something that felt so awful when it was being made? Then it hit me. That "who cares?" came rushing back. Those two words that almost made me stop writing entirely had changed me over those three years. They had grown me in ways that kinder words couldn't. Without them, I wouldn't be writing at all, I don't think. No one would be reading my writing, at least.

It's weird to look back and realize that words I thought were aimed to break me built who I am as a writer today. I didn't see it then, but I can't get past the fact now that they didn't break me. I didn't let them. And because of that, I'm better. Everything you see on this website is because of those two words.

Criticism, if from the right people, isn't meant to hurt, even if it does. And the criticism is going to come, believe me. If you aren't getting any, what are you really doing? Anything? The only real question after that is how you'll respond to it when it inevitably comes. Will you look back, three years from that moment, and realize that everything changed right then? Or will it break you?

And that "who cares"? I still think about it. With that script I didn't like as I wrote it, but everyone else liked as they read it, I think "Who cares that it sucked coming out?" "Who cares that I was sure no one would like it?" "Who cares that I didn't get it all right on the first try?"

What we're feeling, my friends, is ultimately of very little consequence to anyone but ourselves. That's not to say we're to keep those to ourselves, because a feeling suppressed is a feeling unchecked, but in the grand scheme of things, they don't matter nearly as much as what we do. How we respond. Treat others. Treat ourselves. That is and always will be the only thing that matters.