October 25, 2006

I’ll Ask The Mailman Instead

You know what I’ve learned over the twenty or so years I’ve been writing? I’ve learned that writers make terrible critics. By terrible, I mean…they can be mean. Every time I give a short story, novel length manuscript, column or other piece I’ve written to a writer to read, out come the gratuitously negative criticisms.
It doesn’t matter if the piece is completed, or that I don’t want a review, or that the work may already be published, the writer feels it is his or her duty to note a few complaints.
This is why I never joined a writer’s group. I feel that many writers’ complaints about other writers (unless the author is a newbie who can’t spell, plot a story, etc) are petty, imagined, and center mostly on thematic elements or style. It is also my opinion that many writers feel a tinge of jealousy while reading other writers’ work and then unleash criticism to balance against their own imagined “talent inequity”. I’ve felt the urge to do that myself, but I’ve bitten my tongue.
Criticism, when asked for, can be painful, honest and necessary. When a writer evaluates another’s works without consent, it can be downright rude. To all of the freelance critics out there who are guilty of unsolicited analysis, take the advice of a wise person I know who often applies this phrase: “Take your own inventory.” Critique that.

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