Saturday, May 16, 2009

Criticism, Commentary, and Calmness

I read various blogs where YA books are reviewed, often thoughtfully, sometimes with added snark (Reviewer X). Sometimes in the comments the author will chime in to thank them profusely for liking the book, or maybe defend themselves a bit, in a non-confrontational way. Is it acceptable for authors to do this? From what I've seen it curtails any further honest discussion of their book (especially if someone didn't like something).
Acceptable? As with many aspects of the internet, what people can do, they will do.

You're right that conversations on blogs sometimes get more polite and less honest when it becomes clear that the author is a reader. There's not much to do about that.

But authors should strive for a detached relationship with the criticism and commentary their works will encounter. You knew when you wrote the book that most people wouldn't appreciate it as much as you do, right? Or in the same ways?

It's important to remember that this is one of the magics of creating art, and one of the heaving frustrations. Ideally, your work will mean something personal to your readers, and that necessarily means it will be something different from what it meant to you.

So try to let go. Be philosophical about it, and remember the author's prayer:
God, grant me the courage to offer myself to others, the wisdom to let my work be what others most need it to be, and the serenity to hope that it irritates the jackasses of the world at least as much as they irritate me.

9 comments:

Myra said...

Right on.

PurpleClover said...

See I'm a bit torn about anonymously posting your work. It seems you get invaluable feedback but some people are beyond harsh and not in a constructive way. I think when you see that there is a person behind the writing, it allows you to continue your critique with respects to their thoughts and feelings. I offered up a sample of my work for my fellow bloggers and I must admit...they did NOT go easy on me just because they knew me. But they were more respectful than if I posted it anonymously to a bunch of strangers. I feel like they helped me better my work and didn't sacrifice advice for the sake of friendship.

I think there are a select few "nay-sayers" that like to tear people down to make them feel better. If they can't offer their advice just because now they know there is a "real" writer behind the piece...well that's just rediculous.

Kerry said...

I'm memorizing that prayer.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Awesome take on the serenity prayer!

Michelle Sagara said...

I stay out of all discussions of my works on-line when I can. If a reviewer sends me the link (both in my blog or in email), I will go and read it, and sometimes make a comment there because it seems like an invitation to do that.

But ... I can't help but feel that most people are basically decent people who don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So my presence in the discussion means that the people who disliked either the whole book or elements of the book will suddenly feel constrained to say nothing.

And as a -reader-, I like book discussions, and I like to be able to say what I did, or did not like, and what did, or did not, work for me. So I try not to join the actual discussion at all.

(Because, face it, if you think someone's baby is ugly, you might tell your friends this privately, but you never say it to the mother's face because it serves no purpose).

As for offering advice (re: PurpleClover), posting your work for critique is not the same as having it published; published, it's already been editing and critiqued by many. In a critique post, yes, I'd expect people to be polite but to the point...

but mostly, book reviews aren't meant as critiques, and even if they were, this particular work can no longer benefit from any sort of critique because it's already been published, and there is no version 2.0.

So the purpose of the discussion (again, this is a reader perspective) seems to be different, to me.

Weronika said...

I agree 100%.

Thank you for the insightful post!

Chris Eldin said...

LOL at your closing remark!!!

PurpleClover said...

AH! Thanks Michelle! I'm a dummy head. I thought we were talking about critiques for some odd reason. But yes, now I understand the problem...lol.

*ashamed*

Lenore said...

You know, in the age of google alerts and such, I am always aware that there is a very good chance the author is reading the reviews of their book. It definitely makes me more polite and thoughtful when reviewing or making comments, but it doesn't curtail my honesty. I personally think it is great when the author leaves a nice comment or even "lightly defends" their work. It's the ones who leave angry diatribes that aren't welcome ;)