Old Moon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Criticism

You've read and heard the aphorism: those who can do, and those who can't teach. I wonder if it applies equally well to reviewers. Movies, music, painting, books, and a raft of other artistic endeavors are regularly subjected to published opinions. I should know something about that, since I write monthly book reviews for an online magazine.

I try not to forget the first command (written large on our blackboard in the ninth grade) from my high school English teacher:
All criticism should be in plus values. It occurs to me all these years later that that was a remarkable introduction. Its implications weren't lost on us, and they continue to echo to this day.

Have you ever been in a writer's critique group? Do you have trouble deciding what to say about an offering for the current meeting? As comments are made, are they useful? Do they inspire a rewrite? Do they lead to new approaches? Do they make you wish you had stayed in bed?

Admittedly, critique and criticism are not the same breed of cat, though certainly they are related. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of moving many hundreds of miles from my home has been the absence of opportunities to receive and discipline myself to hand out "constructive" criticism among fellow writers. Writing with a hope of publication becomes kind of like trying to walk without staggering on a strange road after dark. Just remember you can't trust your best friend to show you the way unless they have a flashlight. You really need someone who already knows where the potholes are.

If you are attempting any kind of artistic production, seek out those who may be willing at the very least to make comments that begin with discussing what your story or sculpture or song is before they try to tell you what it isn't, where its problems may be. Maybe equally important (an idea my editor has suggested to me), give yourself the same courtesy.

Until I achieve a critical success with a "traditional" publisher, ignore this whole blog. Don't listen to me, for the reason quoted in the first line.

2 comments:

Glenda said...

This all makes sense to me. Good Advice.

jo said...

"Really interesting article, thanks!"
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