There comes a time in every artist's life when the notes inside a well-meant critique will hit us the wrong way. A line we love will be reduced to cliche. A beta reader will cringe at wording we thought was clever or inspired.
For some of us, it might spark the dreaded I'll-never-write-again-this-will-be-the-death-of-me head space. For others, it might bring about a snarling cursing match with the paper.
Those of us who are meant to will move past this, reaching for our calming ritual of choice and examining the advice a second or third (or dozenth) time. Often, this revisit is enough to convince us of the validity of the hated critique, and work may resume.
Occasionally, we'll come across that rare moment when the problem isn't the work. It's us.
The "problem" isn't so much a flaw of craft as it is a quirk of voice or style (perhaps in need of refinement). There will always be individuals who don't like our unique brand of expression. And there will always be individual aspects of our brand that avid fans will wish didn't exist. There's no need to sand ourselves down trying to please every dissenter, even as it is important to undergo polish to become what we were meant to be.
This is true of the selves we keep when we leave the desk.
Our planet would be a dry place if humanity was a monolith. Yet we are blasted on all sides by messages demanding we conform to this or that ideal. We are urged to curb our own needs in order to please a faceless hive lord who claims the pieces of our core can only manifest in a binary.
There is a reason the visible spectrum has seven themes and endless variations on those themes.
Embracing our own voice doesn't require us to disregard all outside influence and trudge ahead only as we please. It forces us to be responsible for the flavor we bring to those influences. It makes us both our own creators and our only unfinished project (remaining incomplete by design). It necessitates that we grow to prevent stagnation and boredom.
Cultivating our voice requires us to read our own minds instead of looking to others to do it for us. In the beginning, there will be no plan, only a desired destination.
But isn't that what vision is for?