Does anyone remember this guy? I do.
Anyway, the topic for today is criticism: when to accept it and when to ignore it.
One thing the internet has done is allowed everyone in the world to put a paper bag over their head (like our friend in the picture) and be a critic, although I use the term loosely there. People can hide in their caves and hurl insults at anything they want. They don’t have to be authorities on the topic or even know the tiniest detail about it.
In my opinion, these are the type who need to be ignored. Look at it this way: I post videos of myself doing my wing chun forms all the time. Should I take a comment like “you suck” to heart, especially when it comes from someone with the user name Dookie Teeth? And if DT is such a wing chun expert, where are THEIR videos? What I’m saying here is that not every negative comment counts as TRUE criticism.
Sometimes there is a gray area where it seems like someone has a valid statement to make, but they really don’t. EXAMPLE: Recently a woman gave me her “critique” on my novel THE SIZE CURSE. This was her grand statement: “I think you should trash it because it’s ridiculous.”
Now keep in mind the back story to this person: I gave her the story 4-5 years ago to read. She told me that she had indeed read it and had written up two pages’ worth of notes of ideas and suggestions. She said she had actually typed the notes up, but then someone stole her laptop. I presented a grand solution to her: how about I call and you just dictate the notes to me? Well, this was met with no reply.
Time went on. LOTS of time. Every now and then I would ask her what was going on. She said she hadn’t had the time to type the notes out. Meanwhile, my dictation suggestion went unanswered. On top of that, I was friends with this person on Facebook. Apparently she forgot that, all while she was saying she didn’t have “time” to type the notes, she was posting pictures of her FUCKING CATS at least every ten minutes. It’s not that she didn’t have time; she just didn’t care.
Honestly, I don’t even count what she said as a criticism. I chalk it up to personal bias. Am I really supposed to let a reason like “it’s ridiculous” make me lose confidence in the story? Hardly. Another throwaway critique that she said was, “Not a lot of people will like this story.” First of all, I knew that going into it. Second, how does she know what everyone (or even most people) will like?
So what kind of criticism SHOULD we take seriously? First of all, our own. For years now I have written stories with my own intuition as my guide. To that end I have NEVER finished a story if I thought it sucked. Second, if a criticism has actual substance. Not just “it sucks” or “it’s ridiculous.” I’ll take the word of the editors of CONCEIT MAGAZINE over someone who took 4-5 years to get their comments to me. Guess those cat pictures were more important.
In closing, let me put it this way: sometimes you have to critique the critic before you can take their words seriously.