If you have ever posted your written works on forums or websites that allowed comments/reviews, then you have probably come across such stellar critiques as: ‘Great! I loved it!’ ‘Really good! I enjoyed this!’ You may even be familiar with such opinions as ‘That sucked!’ ‘This was a piece of total crap!’ ‘I hated this! You call yourself a writer?’
We have all been there. You come across such comments as these on your written pieces and you think, ‘Well, that’s great. I’m glad you liked it, but exactly what did you like about it? Why did you hate it? Why did you think it sucked? Why do you seem to think that I cannot write?’
As writers, our readers are our life’s blood. We like to know what it is that we are doing that they are getting so much enjoyment out of. Likewise, we like to know what parts they are not taking a liking to. For the most part, writers with any amount of time and experience under their belts will take the opinions of readers with a grain of salt. However, for some reason, writers of all experiences seem to pay too much attention to the ‘critiques’ that other writers give.
Writers make the worst critics. In all honesty, they really have no business dishing out advice to other writers. I know what you are thinking: “But they write! Who better to give advice on something other than a professional that has done this?”
Were you asking for medical advice from another medical professional, I would say that you were correct. But writing is, for all intents and purposes, an art form. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a good story is in the mind’s eye of the reader. Writers are already extremely critical of their own work, so one can only imagine how hard they are on other writers. They also have egos to rival that of any rock star. We already think that we are the best writers ever. So how can anyone who is never satisfied with their own work and who already thinks they are the know it all and end all of writing possibly give out unbiased judgment of another artist’s work? In short, they can’t.
Writing is a very personal and very expressive form of art. Writers can spend years cultivating ideas, putting their blood, sweat, heart, and soul into a piece of work. No one, no matter how many published novels they have, how great of a writer they think that they are, no matter how many years of experience they have, can look at a piece of written literature and not inject some of their own style into it. In other words, we are set in our ways. We have our own style of writing, our own likes and dislikes, and our own opinions of what makes a good piece of literature great in our eyes. They are nothing but opinions, and as such, they have no place in the critique of other writers. Just because we think a piece would sound better if it was written in our own personal style does not mean that others share this view-point, nor does it mean that the piece of literature would, in fact, be an overall better piece of work if it were changed. Not everyone wants to read poetry that goes by strict rules of rhythm and rhyme. Not everyone wants to read a murder mystery that has all the loose ends tied up. Not everyone wants their vampire novels filled with spontaneously combusting walking corpses that uses mind tricks to make their victims fall in love with them. If everyone wrote like everyone else, then the literature shelved in libraries across the world would have no meaning. So what if you have a published novel. I have four. So what if you have been writing for fifteen years. I have been writing for twenty-eight. And what I have learned in all that time that the only person who can make my writing better, is me.
In other words, critiques by other writers are pretty much useless. There is only one thing that will ever make a writer any better at their craft. And that is lots. And lots. And lots. Of practice. Think of it this way. You can have the recipe for baking a cake memorized down to the letter. You can have other bakers give you ideas and opinions all day long about what will make the cake turn out better. You can read books and articles until your eyes are sore, but until you actually practice making that cake, all the opinions and critiques in the world are not going to do you one bit of good. What matters at the end of the day is that you have put forth your best effort into what you have created. Always remember that what you write in ten years is going to be different, and possibly better, than what you write today, because as a human, you will grow not only as a person but as a writer as well. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and never be afraid of failure. After all, even the world’s bestselling authors have been known to produce the occasional piece of crap.