When… are we going to talk about Criticism?

Anybody who creates, be it literature, art, music or film, and releases it out into the world is going to suffer some criticism of their work. It’s a difficult subject to cover because, by talking about criticism you open yourself up to… you guessed it, more criticism. In the last few years there have been stories about authors who took to Amazon to challenge bad reviews personally and it never ends well. That’s why my first piece of advice for new writers is “Thou Shalt not Read the Reviews.”

Easier said than done, I know I’ve transgressed in that respect and it’s my rule. The thing is you can’t please everyone, everyone has different tastes or ideas and that is why we have a wealth of creative material out there to satisfy those needs. We all have favourite books, movies and songs and we have ones we hate. It shouldn’t be a great surprise to hear that there are others out there who love the books you hate and hate the books you love. This shouldn’t be a cause for contention, they simply have different tastes/requirements of their media to enjoy them. The famous saying ‘You can please All of the People, Some of the time and Some of the People, All of the Time but you can’t please All of the People, All of the Time” is especially true in regards to creative works. Most importantly not everyone who see’s, views, reads your work is going to give you a review positive or otherwise so you’ll never know what the bulk of your audience think.

Back in my college days our lecturer would repeatedly tell us that the purpose of any media product, literature or artwork is to provoke a reaction. It may be good, it may be bad, as long as it isn’t a shrug and a ‘Meh’ you’ve achieved something. There are even odd cases when a well written ‘Bad’ review might even encourage sales as people wonder what all the fuss is about but that’s little comfort to the creator. Hard as it may be (and in total contrast to the first rule) there are opportunities to learn from critical reviews but, if you end up taking on all the criticism and changing your style into something you don’t enjoy it’s not worth it. If you choose to try and learn from those critical reviews you, in turn, have to be critical of those reviews to be sure that the changes you make to your style fit into your creative vision. It’s more important that you produce something you enjoy than something that’s going to please a couple of reviewers you don’t even know.

Really the message here is don’t let bad reviews get to you, don’t let it stop you. You may learn a little from them but don’t get so focused on pleasing your detractors that you forget why you’re creating in the first place or worse, stop you creating altogether.

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