I’m my own worst critic.

Some might call it a strength because I always see room for improvement, regardless of what I’m doing and how adept I might be at a certain task.

Others might label it a weakness because I rarely feel confident enough to compliment my own work. I’m abnormally quick to see a negative and painfully slow to see a positive.

In reality, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Perhaps God has blessed me with a healthy amount of cynicism. So what’s the point? Well, I mention this because it’s a trait that naturally seeps into my golf game.

I’ve never struck a perfect 7 iron. Relative to my golf swing, I’ve hit many nice shots over the years, even holing out quite a few. But, the way I see it, a flawed beginning cannot produce a perfect result.

My swing is far from perfect. And if my swing always has room to improve, then a perfectly struck 7 iron is not a perfectly struck 7 iron at all. It’s more like a series of synchronized compensations that produce an acceptable result. I’m kind of joking there. Kind of.

Part of the reason I burned out on golf was my inability to silence, or at least temper, that negative voice. But then God led me to writing, and my inner critic began to cultivate, not suffocate, my talents.

Writing as an art is inherently a process of purification–in other words, filtering the excess and muck out of the content. Any writer worth his or her salt will never publish a first draft. The writer must massage and tweak copy to better convey meaning, to produce rythym and flow, and to weed out unnecessary fluff. So writing—and especially editing—involves finding and nuking the negative stuff. It’s a process, not an event.

Though I’ve come to accept blogging as different—a more casual, less anal, style of writing—I’m still incessantly bothered every time I post. Because I know somewhere on this page there’s an errant typo, a clunky cluster of words, a sucky word choice, or just a flat-out piece of crap sentence. It happens.

But back to golf. To become a better golfer, I believe you have to be a self-critic. You have to spot the flaws, the inconsistencies, the seemingly minute details of your game. Otherwise, you’ll never get better.

You have to compete with yourself. Though I’m a pretty low-key fellow at work and at home, when I get on the golf course I transform into somewhat of a competitive, bullheaded S.O.B.

My language seems to change—not for the better, and short of 14 fairways, 18 greens, and 68 strokes, there’s always something for me to be ticked about. But if I hit 14 fairways, 18 greens, and only shoot a 68, then my putting must have sucked. You see what I’m saying about self-criticism?

Anyway, I’m no Bob Rotella or Dr. Phil. But, in my opinion, if you want to be a good golfer–or if you want to be good at anything–you have to be able to criticize yourself.

Does that mean beating yourself up at every opportunity? No, I do enough of that for both of us. But you’ve got to be introspective enough to see your flaws and address them. Denial sucks.

And one more point: You’ve got to take in stride constructive criticism from others. Now, don’t worry about Joe the Wannabe PGA Pro who, without prompting, offers needless advice at every tee box. Ignore that guy.

But talk to the golf pro, the better players at your club, guys in your foursome who can at least identify any major flaws in the swing.

You’ve got to have thick skin. This is something I learned in writing that has helped me in my return to golf. Creative writing workshops in college quickly taught me to enjoy the power of red. Though it hurt to see a professor or a fellow student mark up my paper like a bad painting, it helped me see how others viewed my writing.

Golf is the same. The golfer who never looks for feedback will rarely improve.

Not that you asked for advice, not that you want advice, but I’m offering advice. I’m so old these days that it takes four or five practice swings for all my bones to stop cracking. So if I’m old enough for that, I think I’m old enough to offer unsolicited advice on my blog. But you get what you pay for.

Now go critique yourself and get better at whatever it is you do! Until next time…