Picture of Vera Jane Cook

Vera Jane Cook

Like Minded People or Jane’s Advice on Rejection

I’ve got a real problem with people who think that they know more about everything than you do. They know more about the sixties even though you lived through it and they didn’t. They know more about being gay even though you are and they aren’t. They even know more about human behavior, motive, fear, shame, domination. Why, they even know more about the theater even though they were never in it and you were.

Whew! Makes my blood boil. I think it’s called arrogance. These are people who are tolerated because they are aggressive enough to set themselves up as experts on just about everything – even the life you lived and they didn’t. These people make broad strokes when it comes to their opinions, they drown you in their half assed assumptions that you are ignorant, foolish and totally without insight or talent. These people are not nurturing or gracious or even smart, they are simply supercilious when it comes to their high opinion versus yours.

I was a teacher so I believe in giving criticism as a means of growth, as a way of making something better, not annihilating it because it doesn’t conform to the standards of excellence of the one judging it. A good artist always has the potential to achieve excellence. I believe that a person’s art, which could mean their book, their painting, their musical composition, whatever, has merit and criticism must be given as a way of taking the seed and knowing how much water it needs to grow into something beautiful.

What really goads me is when people think they are better than they are, when you read their books or observe their painting or listen to their composition and you say to yourself, no Anita Shreve here, no Monet, no Carol King and they’re judging me? But of course, in their self over bloated opinion of themselves, they are better than they are, they know everything. They wear arrogance like the apricot scarf in Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain.

I know people like this, people to whom the world is a reflection of them. Everywhere they look they see themselves and in their mirrors they are not mediocre, they are grand. Oh, they make me angry, so much so that when I look at them I can’t laugh, when that’s really what I should be doing. But how hard it is to shrug off the negative opinions of others, especially when they lack an offer of value. When they are empty, and often over inflated muckety-muck. They sit in the back of your mind like the irritating memories of the nasty little boy in high school that made fun of the way you dressed. It makes you forget about that sweet boy with all the curly hair that thought you were beautiful.

Ah, well, I think my point is this. Don’t be afraid to seek like minded people. You will grow more from the people who respect you, than the ones who don’t. Do not accept rejection from people who do not know how to be teachers or publishers, editors or agents or simply, good friends. Those titles come with a certain responsibility. The bad ones only know how to annihilate, not nurture, not recognize talent and guide it or support it. Look for people who see your glow and like being in it. All those other barracudas out there belong in the ocean where sight is misty, hearing is lost and vanity is king.