Friday, April 1, 2016

Criticism, Critics, and the Wisdom to Ignore Them

I enjoy reading Sarah Hoyt's blog, and her latest communiqué reminded me of something that happened to me some time back, and that had a brief impact on my writing.

Reading The Harshest Judge by Sarah A. Hoyt, the author recounts critical editorials of her work and writes that:
...Kristine Kathryn Rusch told me to stop taking workshops and to let someone else filter editorial letters for me: someone who was not afraid of me and who was strong enough to tell me if I was off my rocker. Not because I don’t take critiques well, but because I take them too well. I accept everything someone says. And if someone tells me a story sucks, I believe them implicitly. Because I don’t believe myself, and because I engage in self-flagellation on a regular basis.
Which is what happened to me. I neglected my afternoon refreshment and attended a self-styled writer's group, the members of which didn't know what to make of my latest work. When they finally recovered their collective consciousness (a look into my imagination can, in fact, be pretty stupefying to the uninitiated), they proceeded to object to my story on various grounds, and I accepted their objections as valid, valuable opinions that I would be wise to follow.

Needless to say, my writing suffered. A lot.

After a few weeks of regular attendance one newbie trotted out an imagist poem she'd spent all afternoon composing (yes, I'm being sarcastic) and presented it for review. Turn and turn about, the members praised this contribution to the literary world as if it had been composed by The Bard himself. Each member found something new and interesting to say about the poem, while validating what the persons prior to them had opined.

This caused me to read it over three times to see what I was missing, and the answer was the same each time. Nothing. Not a thing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Bupkis.

Because, you see, the poem was crap, and the best thing about it was that it only took up one page.  Being the intemperate soul that I am, I was the first and only person at the table to point out that the emperor was buck naked.

Because, well, he was.

I didn't rip this poem to shreds with joyful abandon or an overwhelming sense of schadenfreude. My happiness, or to be more accurate, my immediate surcease of inner turmoil, came from the sudden insight that these people didn't know what they were talking about, and not one of them were capable of providing a valid criticism of anything involving ink, paper, and literature.

And dumb old me, I'd been taking them seriously. What a joke.

Worse, they were all SJWs of one stripe or another, and given that I'm a conservative, gun owning, freedom loving, whiskey drinking, SJW hating, author of fiction... well, you can imagine where that's going to go.

I stopped at a convenient watering hole on my way home from the writer's group that night, ordered up a dry martini and toasted the man in the mirror. Better late than never, pal.

My long winded point to this diatribe is this:

If you're a writer and want an evaluation of your work, make sure the person looking it over doesn't start his sentences with, "I don't like...", because unless he's CEO of a large dead-tree publishing house, no one cares what he likes or doesn't like, and more to the point, you've got the wrong man for the job.

And, by the way, he is gender neutral.  Take that, SJWs.


  1. Well, as a mostly lapsed reader who knows nothing about anything you're talking about - I have some recommendations!

    Hoyt rules - for one. I follow her blog and she has good friends and even better enemies. She's probably worth listening to.

    Stay out of those damned workshops! I used to be a voracious reader and now maybe one in four or even ten books I buy is worth reading. The rest is all carbon copy, politically correct dreck written by homosexual/feminist/socialist/turd brained morons...for other politically correct homosexual/feminist/socialist/turd brained morons.

    Why, it's so bad that today's best writers are buried alive under mountains of poseurs and phonies that all went to the same workshop.

    Good luck WL!

    1. I know what you mean. I thought the whole PC business was just me, but I learned. Slowly, maybe.