Literature, Writing

Should writers seek criticism?

“Protect your voice and your vision. If going on the Internet and reading Internet reviews is bad for you, don’t do it. … Do what gets you to write and not what blocks you. … Don’t take any guff off anybody.”
–Anne Rice

Dear Vinepire,

I have never kept my admiration for Anne Rice, the legend behind  The Vampire Chronicles a secret, and would write a trilogy for her to set the eyes that saw Lestat clearer than anyone else ever will, upon my writing. But back in reality, I stumbled over her curious piece of advice : ignoring criticism protection of the creative flow. I will just assume that it sounds equally strange to you.

Having done a little research on her first, most famous novel, Interview with the Vampire, I felt like her categorical rejection of dismissing comments was grounded : Her hit novel earned, according to Rice, about a year´s worth of rejections from publishers. So my admiration for her just grew, as despite this blow, she had never given it up. But really, can the average published-writer-to-be compare him/herself to that author?

I´ve believed, until now, that writers are somehow different people, in the sense of keeping always the will to improve each other´s performance, while in ruthless competition on a selective market. The criticism, even if holding barely on the shaky legs of opinion, seemed food for the muse, not poison. After all, as close as the bond between us and our freshly spilled ink might indeed be, don´t we all secretly enjoy the satisfaction inspired by unjustified criticism? I can often barely decide wether I like it less or more that the thankfulness for real constructive advice.

So, being quite frankly lost, I would like to ask you, dear reader, what your take on the dilemma is. And in the meanwhile, please, feel free to criticize anything you like…

Thank you so much for reading,

Your Vine Vampire

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12 thoughts on “Should writers seek criticism?

  1. In the limited experience I have in this area, I would say that reading criticism has generally not been productive for me, and that because the people who criticize most vehemently are NOT the members of one’s intended audience. I didn’t write what I wrote for those people, who obviously do not get it. I wrote it for the many other people who DO get it, and are helped, inspired, entertained by it. The criticism that is most productive for me is that which comes from fans: “I love your work, but this part just seemed odd to me….” I’m overjoyed to have that kind of feedback, because it allows me to do exactly what I wanted all along: serve my intended audience in the best way I can.

    • Thank you so much for your reply, I think you made a point. I hope that you do not take the opinions (because that is all they really can be) of readers who do not get you to heart. I wish I could share some resilience advice with you.
      So do you feel differently, maybe more open towards advice just when formulated in a positive manner?

        • That actually makes me sad, how many people struggle to communicate their criticism in a constructive manner. But what if someone who gets your writing on a depper level suggests an improvement very far away from what you´ve envisaged?
          Does that create a kind of battle between your inner critic and the one on the outside, or do you know in advance which one is the more trustworthy adviser?

          • If I don’t understand and agree with a criticism on a gut level, I don’t worry about incorporating it. I’m not sure how I could, if I don’t really “get” it. The most helpful criticism is that which makes me say, “Oh, yes! I KNEW something was wrong with that part, and you’ve nailed it on the head. THANK you.”

  2. I would never blast anyone’s work to shreds, as I feel that every offering of written thoughts, or any creative endeavour for that matter, will appeal to some group of people, somewhere and at some point in their lives. That’s why cutting criticism is often better ignored – unless you know, trust and respect the person giving it and can see that they really do understand what you’re trying to achieve and also have your best interests at heart. Otherwise, gentle encouragement in any critique is much more persuasive in getting the writer/artist to correct or re-think something with potential. Anyway, that’s just my opinion! Thanks for this very thought-provoking post and also for liking my latest blog entry!

    • Thanks so much for your comment! You have made some very good points, and it is true that the most unlikely work can find its audience, but is there a particular you take?
      For my part, I can not understand how John Green, for example, works while sharing every single of his drafts with his wife. When I write, no one will fin out what it´s about until the very end… I guess that makes me a touchy writer ^^

      • To be honest, I’ve just decided that there’s always going to be a group of people who “get” me and others who don’t, so instead of trying to win over the ones who are always going to find fault with the nature of the work I do, before I even put pen to paper, I’d rather observe what’s going on around me, take notice of anything I think would help me improve and just let my work evolve more organically. After all, I’m only doing what I do because I think it would be a pity not to – whatever anyone else thinks! 🙂 Negative criticism hurts, of course, but as they say, life’s too short!

        • I must say you impressed me, that is some true belief in yourself! ❤ Would you make an exception though, if a negative comment came from a figure of authority, like a college professor or an editor?

          • I must put on a good show, because believe me, I’m just as sensitive (if not more so) than anyone else to criticism. I’ve dwelt long enough on negative criticism from figures of authority to realise that unless it has come from a place of true and constructive insight (the way or tone of the delivery of criticism also holds many clues), it’s just detrimental to my own progress. Plus, I’m usually my own harshest critic, so I don’t like feeding that particular fire from outside as well 🙂

            • Oh really? I can absolutely relate! That inner voice is even worse that critics in my opinion, because although people might tell you to do things differently, you will probably tell yourself to stop altogether. This being the death sentence to a writer, I would argue that this should be the only voice not to let influence the writing.

              I do not know if you maybe experienced it in a similar way, but I tend to shut down instinctively at any sign of negative message directed at what I´m doing.

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