Just in case anyone needed help with the definition: You're not a "hypocrite" if you don't practice what you preach; you're a hypocrite if you don't believe what you preach. We're all human, we're all flawed, we all fail. As long as you keep trying, there's hope.
On a different, but not entirely unrelated, subject of "critics": they may not only not help (even with "constructive" criticism), they may actually hinder the creation of a work of art.
I recently finished a "restored edition" of the American classic novel "All The King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie. The republished novel is a "restored" version edited by University of Mississippi scholar Noel Polk, based upon the author's originally typed manuscript, before his editors at publishing house Harcourt Brace "improved" it with numerous revisions, made either by them directly or by the author at the urging of the editors. The changes included many that were influenced by what the editors thought might be required so as not to offend what they perceived to be the public's taste at the time (the mid-to-late 1940s), to otherwise make the book more salable to the middle brow reader, or because the editors apparently did not comprehend the author's artistic vision. The restored book appears to be closer to articulating that vision in the manner that the author originally created. I found it remarkably enjoyable to read a more forceful, wise-cracking Jack Burden, the novel's narrator, than the cypher-like nebbish who appears in the originally published version. I also found the author's original name for his central character (Willie Talos) intriguing on a number of levels discussed by Mr. Polk. It is a great novel in either version, but, in my opinion only (and celebrity authors like Joyce Carol Oates strongly disagree with that opinion), a more compelling one without the "improvements" made by the editors.
I also recently finished a novel by Chris Cander that I discussed a week ago, "Whisper Hollow". In the previous post, I mentioned that I thought that the book had been heavily edited by agents, publishers, and the author in response to criticism. I confess to having read an earlier version of the novel, and after finishing the published version, it is clear that it was substantially re-written. I have not discussed the editing process with the author, but I suspect that the edits were made to make the book more marketable to today's reading public. In some respects, the edits improved the "readability," in terms of plot movement and addressing the problem that any writer of serious fiction faces currently: a reading public doped up on sensations and with the attention spans of gnats. It moves briskly, and I think that the device of having months or years intervene between chapters is ingenious for this purpose. Not as ingenious as Ms. Cander's use of the elasticity of time and a fall from a rooftop 11 stories high in her previous novel "11 Stories," but clever enough.
What I miss from the earlier draft are the extended scenes that fleshed out the protagonists and antagonists. I'm a sucker for diving into the interior lives of interesting characters, especially when they tell us something profound about the human condition. I wish more of that style had survived the improvements made once the editors got ahold of it. Nevertheless, it's a good book and worth your time, notwithstanding the criticism of one university professor that I ran across on Amazon.com, who criticized the use of "cliches" and borrowed scenes and writing styles.
Let's put aside the "man in the arena" response of Teddy Roosevelt, as valid as it might be. Instead, I respond that the deft use of cliches and recognizable writing styles is appropriate when they work. In this novel they do. When Ms. Cander refers to a main character's last thoughts before death in terms of his "abbreviated life flashed before his eyes," it conveys the same meaning as Column McCann's use of the phrase "it all flashing in front of her--her short vicious life--" to describe the last moments of a prostitute killed in a car wreck in his novel "Let The Great World Spin." It works. It conveys the meaning that the author wishes to convey in a manner that the reader understands and, because he or she has heard it before, in a manner that twists the cliche ever-so-slightly-yet-cleverly." McCann's book won a National Book Award and was a darling of critics from the Olympian heights of The New York Times.
Again, the use of recognizable scenes, phrases, or styles in a novel does not detract from my enjoyment of a novel if they work. For Ms. Cander and Mr. McCann, they definitely worked.
I am not implying that "Whisper Hollow" is on the same level as "Let The Great World Spin." I do not think Ms. Cander is quite there. Yet. However, based upon what's good about her latest novel and what was great about her first novel, I believe that she has talent equivalent to Mr. McCann's and that her best work is yet to come. I just hope that she stops listening so dutifully to her editors and trusts her talent. Then, I think, her vision will be realized.
I'm looking forward to the future.