Every form of artwork comes with it’s own set of critics. It’s an odd sort of thing we humans have created – a group of people to decide what art is “good” or “bad”, what’s its “meaning” and where it should stand in comparison to other artwork and artists. There’s nothing wrong with this, but we can give critics perhaps a smidgen too much weight, abdicating our own opinions and having them filled in for us.
This doesn’t mean that criticism doesn’t have value. It’s unfortunate the word itself has become synonymus with something bad as opposed to a neutral term that should describe something useful. Because, done well, criticsm is useful. It can inspire us to make changes to make our work, if not “better” (because that’s subjective), then fuller, rounder, a more complete representation of ourselves or that which we’re trying to capture or define.
If you want to help your fellow writer, than don’t steer away from criticsm, just make sure you’re doing it right. How? Well, here’s some tips to be a “good” critic.
1) Be constructive
Do I need to say this? Yeah I think so. Unfortunately, the growth of the internet means it’s easy to say anything about anything safely tucked away behind the keyboard. So it seems that being thoughtful about what you feedback takes a back seat to saying “This was sh*t!” That may be your opinion, but in means nothing to the person reading it. They’re still none the wiser about whether they want to read it. Equally if you’ve been asked to provide feedback directly to the writer, it gives them nothing to work with. So yes, your suggestions should give an idea of what you liked and why and what could be worked on and why.
2) Don’t get personal
Unfortunately, the growth of the internet means it’s easy to say anything about anything safely tucked away behind the keyboard. And we’re almost encouraged to get all emotional about what we read. But as well as being completely useless, a personal attack on an author doesn’t exactly prompt them to improve. It usually just gets people’s backs up, making them more unaccepting of change, or is very damaging to someone’s mental health. Some people might go on about “snowflakes” here or the need to have a thicker skin, and whilst I agree you need to be able to take criticsm on the chin, that’s in regard to your work only. That’s what’s on display. Your personal life, your apperance that’s not up for critique.
3) Respect other opinions
Your review/feedback will likely join that of others – and they may not agree with you. If you’re in a group and someone disagrees with your opinion – that’s ok. Equally if you read a review and wonder if someone read the same book as you – that’s also ok. But like I explained above, there’s no reason to then get personal and take a jab at that person’s opinion. It’s petty and childish.
4) Be honest
This is important especially if you’ve been asked by the author for your opinion on something (and harder if said person is a friend). But you need to highlight the good and the bad (constructively and nicely) or else you’re doing them a diservice.
There are a few ideas to help you critique with confidence. Any other suggestions you’d add? Please share in the comments.