• Coming face-to-face with a good critic.

If you’ve ever pursued any sort of craft or art in your life, you probably want other people to like what you do. Or maybe you don’t care, and I shouldn’t assume such things. But me, well, wow, I want people to think my stuff is the greatest thing ever and when it’s not — when it falls short even by just a tiny bit — I fall apart inside. Outside, I sweat. Really, you know when I’ve been emotionally crushed by the flushness of my face and beads of perspiration forming on my brow. It’s a physical upwelling of self doubt.

So, last night, as I headed out to a songscreening being put on by West Coast Songwriters (WCS) there was a little knot of worry starting to form, because I was bringing a song I had high hopes for. When I arrived, the room was much more crowded than usual and I took a seat in the back. I figured that if I did melt down, I wanted to be far enough away no one would notice, especially the woman screening the songs.

Her name was Judy Stakee and her resume was impressive, boasting over 30 years as a music industry pro, the last 20 of which were as Senior VP of Creative at Warner Chappell Music, where she oversaw both a staff of in-house songwriters and a stable of artists. Her reputation, according to WCS, is that of a consummate believer in the power of a good song. I HAD to know what she thought of my stuff.

I was number 15 on the list, so I had sit through a lot of songs before she got to mine. Along the way, I found myself agreeing with her as she rejected song after song, and I confess, I was smugly confident that when she got to mine, she’d change her tune, so to speak. Me break out into an embarrassing sweat? Nope, wasn’t gonna happen. I even kept my sweatshirt on.

Big mistake. As she explained that my song was faceless because it said nothing about the people in it, just their situation, I puddled. Outwardly, save for the deluge, I kept my cool (ha) — meaning I didn’t start crying or anything — but inwardly I simply hollowed out. Then she delivered the coup de grace: a flippant “It’s nice.”

Now I know that if I let myself fall prey to every criticism I will never develop and get better — or finish my album — but when I hear something I agree with, and I agreed with her critique, well, I don’t see the problem with accepting it and working with it.

And that’s what I’m doing. In fact, the minute I got home I wanted to set to work fixing the lyrics, but the babies were melting down, Catherine was at the end and everyone was starving. So I did my very best to simply focus more on the people in my life — just like I need to do in my songs — and helped get the babies fed and dinner on the table.

First thing I did on waking up? Starting re-working the song. I’m making good progress.