Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Mark of Good Criticism

Lately there's been a big to-do about authors who stalk their reviewers. In particular, this.

I'm not that far into my career, personally, and I have yet to wade into the world of book bloggers, Amazon, and Goodreads reviews. But I do have some material online, on +Wattpad. And I do, in that fact, have exposed myself to reviews. Or rather, criticism.

And I'd like to think that I know the difference between constructive criticism and mean-spirited, unhelpful, envious spew.

Case in point: while I was posting the chapters for RoboNomics Book I, I had a single piece of trolly, pointless criticism. I blogged about it. It was hurtful, basically declaring the story 'boring'. But this being Wattpad, I just deleted the damn thing. Especially since it was posted by an account without a picture, that followed no one and was followed by no one, and was obviously just created to troll me.

This week, I got another negative review of RoboNomics Book II. Unlike the first one, this was from a regular, supportive reader. Unlike the first one, it had merit. It was worded a tad snarkily -- and was enough to send me (almost) into a spiral of doubt.

Being a writer and making the decision to put your thoughts out there means forever battling with self-doubt. This is a well-known fact. It takes courage, especially for a sensitive person, to put one's story or stories out into the harsh world. So even the slightest hint of positivity can send me into throes of euphoria, and even the slightest hint of negative can send me into the throes of depression.

But this time was different. I couldn't just forget it. When I read the criticism in the evening, I was all ready to turn on Netflix to something stupid, wallow in a massive bag of M&Ms, and just try try try and forget about it.

But instead I ate a handful of candies, watched a single episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender and went to bed early. I let it simmer.

And in the morning, I realized that my critic was right: there is something off about RoboNomics Book II. I know what it is, and I know how to correct it.

That's the major difference between the two types of criticism. One is unhelpful. It deserves to me ignored because it's all about that other person. It has to do with their own issues, and has nothing to do about the work. I can let it roll off my back. I can easily forget it.

But the other kind of criticism cannot be forgotten. It's helps me grow as an artist, see the work from a different light, and solve problems. It is to be cherished, even.

Is this a mark of maturity? Well, we'll see. I'm sure I'll come across a ton more negative commentary in the future. Let's hope I respond as graciously as I did this time...

In short, I'll have to keep this in mind:

(Except that part about suicide. I'm not really down with that).