The Dream Killer: How to Stop Comparing and Enjoy Your Craft Again

The Dream Killer: Comparison and How to Enjoy Your Craft

I’m thrilled to introduce a new guest writer! This article, about comparing yourself in the arts, is by Lauren Norton of Glitter & Grandeur.

Have you ever watched a performance or seen a piece of art and thought: “I could do better than that.” – OR – thought: “I’ll never be that good”?

I have thought each of these things multiple times. I’m guilty. I’ll admit it.

As artists (of all art-forms), our work is personal – it is a part of us: an extension of our soul. We live in a highly competitive world where we constantly are told we aren’t good enough. I’ll agree: it’s hard -making it easy for us to fall into the soul-crushing trap of comparison. Continue reading “The Dream Killer: Comparison and How to Enjoy Your Craft”

The Mission of Community

How the Mission of Community on Sara Strives can be Anyone’s Mission

When you log onto Sara Strives about page, you are currently met by an Adobe Spark Video that notes her site as “creative,” “ambitious,” “inspired”, and “community”. If you read closely, you’ll notice that three out of four words are adjectives. The fourth, a noun, is the driving force behind Sara Strives. The various tabs on the site encourage others to join and support her journey, as success is meaningless without people to share it with, make you better a what you do, and to bring along for the ride.

College Critiques

College Critiques: How to Accept Criticism and Give It

So excited to give you another post from Margaret! This one is about critiques. Accepting criticism as an artist is extremely challenging. And this article is a perfect guide to accepting criticism and giving critiques.

Greetings! Margaret here again. I hope you’ve had a fantastic week and that failure isn’t as frightening as it may have once been. I couldn’t be more grateful to Sara for hosting me again, and she has been as patient as a saint. Did you know I moved this weekend? I feel a little beat up, so it’s nice to sit and write, and not do anything related to lifting or running up and down stairs.

College Critiques

So let’s get to it! This week I’d like to talk to you about critiques. Sheesh, there’s nothing more trying than getting up with a piece of artwork you’ve worked on for weeks and taking everyone’s criticism–constructive or otherwise.


At least that’s how it was in my art classes. You’d have to display your work and stand beside it, mouth shut, while everyone pointed out what was working and what wasn’t. Sure, I’ve received a lot of critiques as a fiction writer–and I’ve given them as well–but I developed my thick skin for critiques in art class.


At the college level, critiques should be more in-depth. It’s no longer enough to say you like something or you don’t like something. Classmates–and you–need to be able to articulate why you like it. But even to say “I like this because…” isn’t substantial enough. It’s too subjective. Critiques should be objective, and that can make them hard to receive.


They sound cold and impersonal.


The truth is, that’s okay. They should be impersonal. If your painting doesn’t work for some reason, it doesn’t matter if you’re the nicest person in the world. It’s the same for fiction.


I was working on a book in third-person (He went over there, for example), and I was having difficulty getting far enough into my narrator’s headspace. My fellow students told me the story was interesting but it just wasn’t grabbing their attention.




For a writer, there’s nothing worse than not grabbing your reader’s attention! After all, that’s what keeps them turning the pages. The most constructive critique identified that my reader felt too far away from my main character and narrator.


I switched to first person (I went over there, for example), and it revolutionized my story.


So here’s your choice when faced with a tough critique: Let your feelings get hurt and take it personally, or learn to develop a thick skin and begin to crave constructive criticism.


What about giving critiques?

Believe it or not, giving a good critique is easier than it may seem. Keep in mind that your professor might have additional or different guidelines that you should always follow, but if you’re not given guidelines or they’re loose, here’s a good template to guide you.


The Sandwich Critique

  1. Say something that works about the piece. Don’t just try to be nice, really look for something that works well. Try to drill down to details. For example, does the composition carry your eye through the piece? Maybe the colors or textures create energy for the viewer. Be as specific as you can and don’t make it personal.
  2. Suggest something that might be improved upon. Just as almost every piece has strengths, so too is there often room for improvement. Again, be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “I don’t like the colors.” Instead, it might be more appropriate to say something like this: “The brown, gray, and red color scheme create a dull, muddy tone when your subject matter suggests something more upbeat. Was this original? If not, you might consider choosing different colors.”
  3. Say something that works well again. Not only will this allow the recipient of your critique to feel empowered and positive, but it shows that you’re not just looking for the negative.


Additional Tips

What else can you do to improve your critique experience?

  • Listen to others when they give you critiques. Keep eye contact and don’t interrupt. Don’t defend your work. Remember they’re just trying to help and you are not forced to take their advice.
  • Study each piece and take notes before you critique, if possible. Jot down some quick ideas of what works and what doesn’t.
  • If someone else says what you were thinking for a piece before your turn to critique, that’s okay. You can agree with them and even add to what they said.


I know critiques are difficult. I know it. I’ve encountered them for fine art and for writing. I can’t make promises that they will get easier, but they did for me, and now after earning my master’s, I can say I crave a good critique. When someone just tells me what they think I want to hear, I feel let down.


Good luck, and always remember that it’s about improving the piece, and that a critique is not personal.

Failure: Friend or Foe?

Hello! I am so excited to have our very first guest writer today, writing all about failure. Margaret has 4 posts planned, one to be posted every Monday this May. So, here it goes! -Sara

Failure: Friend or Foe?


As a writer, failure–usually in the form of a generic rejection letter–is something I face every time I submit a short story for publication. At first, the prospect of a rejection letter was almost crippling. The idea of putting my work forward for strangers to judge once made me sick to my stomach.

Then it happened: My first rejection. I’d submitted a story to Glimmer Train, which is a well-known literary magazine that I’d had my sights set on for awhile. Publication in Glimmer Train commands a certain degree of respect.

I won’t lie–the rejection stung at first, until I realized that it wasn’t a personal affront. They in no way said my writing was lacking, only that the particular story I’d sent in did not fit their vision for the upcoming issue. They (the magazine is edited by a pair of sisters) invited me to submit again in the future.

So I have. I’ve submitted three times so far, and received a rejection each and every time.

I’ve learned something with each rejection. Market research can only take a fiction writer so far. Sometimes the process of elimination–even with one’s own stories–can be more educating than reading back issues. Each rejection takes me one step closer to acceptance, because I am honing in their ideal story.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with art. The thing is, the “writer’s life” isn’t all that much different from the artist’s life–we just use a different medium.

I have studied the fine arts, as well. In my younger years, I earned my BA in Art History, but before then I intended to pursue Art Education. The Arts had always been a staple in my education. As a high school student I attended the Center for Creative Youth (CCY), a five-week intensive art education experience at Wesleyan University.

Naturally, as a budding artist, I enrolled in Drawing 101 and Drawing 102. Drawing 101 was fantastic–it was difficult, but fantastic. Every night we had to draw our hand in a different position for homework. My early attempts looked like blind contour drawings, though there was nothing blind about them.

By the end of that course, my hand was popping off the page. The semester ended and I practiced my newly refined skills over winter break.

Then the spring semester began. I could make excuses and say that my instructor was an egomaniac whose ideas about how to teach drawing were off-base. But the fact was, he asked us to complete what seemed like a simple task, and I utterly failed at it.

We had a twenty-four-inch wide piece of paper, clipped on the easel. Our task? Draw a straight vertical line, dead center, with willow charcoal.

I admit it was not my most eco-friendly month. The only thing I managed to produce was a pile of discarded newsprint sheets and plenty of frustration. My classmates were in the same boat. We grumbled about the task, about his methods, and about his “You should feel fortunate to have me as your professor” attitude.

The fact was, we were all failing. We never did manage to draw a perfectly straight line down the absolute center of the page (no rulers allowed!), but we were learning to accept failure. To learn from it. To rely upon our determination rather than our frustration.

Fine Arts or Fiction, failure is not our enemy. We need not fear failure–the only thing we need to fear is giving up out of frustration.

My Thoughts on Drawing Nude Figures

Originally published on sarastrives.wordpress.comMy Thoughts on Drawing Nude Figures

*If you are not comfortable with the discussion of nude models please skip on reading this post. There is no nudity and there aren’t any crude descriptions, it is all my thoughts about the experience.*

Continue reading “My Thoughts on Drawing Nude Figures”