Criticism can be given for multiple reasons, but it generally can be divided into two camps of thought. The first is criticism that is for the writer’s benefit; that is, criticism that takes a person’s work to the next level and pushes him or her to reach that level. The second is to be dismissed, and it is to be dismissed immediately. It is the sort of criticism that is done for the sake of “poking holes.” It has no grace to it. It has no aim other than belittlement and a desire to prove who is better than whom.
The first type of criticism requires consideration. Some of the criticism will have merit to it; some of it won’t. Some of it, no matter how kindly given, will be irrelevant. Some of it will get stuck on a single line or word. It will forget to examine how that line or words works in relation to the piece in its entirety. Some criticism will require tearing a piece down to its core elements and rebuilding. Some will result in demolition. Some criticism will say, “You can do better than this. Try again.” Some will express misunderstanding, and it may be a misunderstanding that only one person has. In such a case, the question becomes one of who will prevail, the majority or the minority. The majority typically rules, but, sometimes, the minority has an insight that shouldn’t be ignored. The minority may lead to a different way of looking at the subject or an alternate way of writing about it.
The second type, as stated earlier, is to be ignored. The comments usually are inflammatory if not downright mean. They are meant to garner reactions. To interact with the criticism or the critic in any manner is to give credence to the statements and the person. Neither must occur; critics of this ilk are to be refused admittance to one’s work. Acknowledging the comments and the person only gives that person the power to continue spewing hate-filled, unhelpful statements.
How can a writer tell the difference between the two types of criticism? The first, no matter how harsh it is or seems, always is done for the benefit of the writer. The critic receives nothing from the criticism except the knowledge that he or she may have helped the writer in some way. The second, which is always harsh, is done for the benefit of the critic. It’s given because the critic likes the sound of his or her voice. The critic has no real concern for the work or the writer; he or she only wants to pontificate.
That’s one way to judge criticism. How do you do it?
Photo: Piddleville (CC BY SA 2.0)