Thought I'd add something interesting to this thread...
I was asked by a member of a group I admin to give feedback and explain why we declined two of their poems. When I complied, they not only assumed I had no idea what I was talking about, they also insinuated that our group accepts bribes in exchange for features.
And I have to say, if it weren't for the fact that I also recently got genuinely appreciative responses from people whose work I critiqued, this would definitely have put me off my critiquing appetite for a long damn time.
Yeah. It was....pretty nasty. They then proceeded, through the rest of our conversation (as I was trying to explain how our voting practices work, what specifically I meant in my critique, etc), to insist I had made that insinuation up because of a guilty conscience. It was all I could do to try to keep it professional and...not as pissed off as I actually was. I managed not to cuss them out. Barely.
I often think it's because people just don't like hear unpleasant things about themselves, and most people are deeply attached to their art. I know that if someone's just going to tell me I'm wrong, that's gonna bug me on at least some level. It's better when someone provides a reasonable argument as to why, then it at least produce something constructive.
A good example from my blog. One guy just posted that he thought the game I talked about was "Meh" and added nothing. All it did was be negative, considering he didn't even give a reason why, and pretty much flat out refused to even when I argued that he wasn't really adding anything. Then, about two posts later, someone gave a lengthy argument that far more directly hit at what the guy found was wrong in the post -- but somehow, because he was direct, honest, and in a way, helpful, it was far less of an irritant. I even kind of enjoyed debating with him about it.
I always try to be honest with myself about my work. Most people really like my stuff, but I remain doubtful of anything until proven otherwise. I hope for the best, but expect the worst, and that way I'm either not deeply upset or happily surprised.
As for people freaking out because I didn't like something... I consider that a sign that they clearly either have an issue with their ego or are very defensive. I can actually top that though, with one boss I had on a videogame project. This was his first time doing the job, and he... was not doing a good job as manager (and I was the only person under his management, and yet he still found a way to often make it difficult to do my job or feel like I could be civil around him). I eventually looked him up to see what I could find... and oh my gosh, he was worse in response to people who disagreed with him. At first it looked like he was willing to discuss with them, but instead treated them like FOX News would treat someone from the videogame industry. He'd ignore their points, even onetime outright stating "lets mozy on past that", he'd refuse to see their side of the argument, and wouldn't give up until he won. I'd say that's far worse than someone who flames out at you.
I was not suggesting the critique would be lashing out though. I'm merely stating that there are people who easily take any criticism as a personal attack, and don't like that as a result. Oversensitivity is an issue just as much as bitter critics lashing out for no reason. Both are equally at fault in my eyes.
Oh, okay. I agree with that. I just thought what you meant was the critic talking about the person in a negative fashion because of what they wrote/draw/took a photo of/ect. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
precisely. too many folks want friends around here and think that is a way to get them. i have to pull the reality TV card and say "I ain't herre to make friends!" and z-snap them in a circle and leave.
no, you're not wrong. "this sucks because i say so" it is not a critique. it is a comment but it's made more for the benefit of the person saying it. to you, it is worthless. to them, they feel better.
I consider a GREAT critique to point out everything - the negative, the positive, the in-between AND suggestions on how to improve. 100% yes. yet for some reason, people refuse to understand that it is not difficult to do this. maybe they don't believe in themselves enough to point out what is good/bad and how to improve it. someday they will if they want to.
I think for the most part people that complain that they got 'bad critiques' are people who got a real critique and not some "omg you're so amazing" reviews.
I've only ever had one person freak out saying I was trolling them. I try to keep my critiques with balance of praise and improvements. If I don't have a good thing to say I usually just skip the critique all together unless it was specifically asked for. For the things I point out that could be changed or improved I try to find something good in the piece as well. I might not have as many good points as points to work on for some things, and some may have more good points than suggestions I have.
But none the less, some people can't handle being told "this could be better" because what they really want is to hear "this is the most amazing thing I've ever read"... we all want to hear that, and most of us are able to handle that we aren't always going to. But some people just can't.
When it comes down to those that can't I don't think there's really much we can do. I've tried to explain it's just a suggestion and everyone has their own views and thoughts, they can work on it or ignore me. I don't care. They asked for critique, I gave it. If they don't like it, to be blunt, they can suck it up and either take what I have to say or ignore me, I'm personally not all that fazed in the end of it all, the world continues and it was just a bit of time I was already wasting wasted.
Even when blunt, harsh critique is helpful, after a while it's difficult to ignore that it's kind of a performance where the same ideas get regurgitated over and over. There are many intelligent people who give quality critiques, but do you know what becomes of all those stupid stupid people who didn't take your critique well? They get often get bitter, and then they start giving their own critique, and since they secretly envied how intelligent you seemed to them, they will mimic the rhetoric and structure of your critiques without actually grasping any of the meaning. Then things dumb down.
I feel as though the way we look at "good" writing is narrow, but at the same time if we become "open" to shitty writing it will go nowhere. Just ask for critique in the chat writeroom, those people will immediately drag attention to the fact that critique is harsh, and that you have to be strong enough to take it, and and it's just like seagulls yelping in a repetitive cycle. A lot of people are just really really pumped to be "right" about something--and then you look at their own writing and realize that they don't know what they are talking about, even when the critique they gave is valid.
One of the most annoying motifs in almost all literature communities, online or in real life, is that there is at least one particular person who is toted as being the really really "harsh" semi-asshole--and they really play it up. I don't necessarily mind the critique, but what irks me is how blatant a performance piece it all is. I suppose this isn't actually relevant, as we are not supposed to focus on the "people", but I don't actually understand that. People suck sometimes and we should talk about it.
Speaking of sucking, when I first started sharing my shitty poetry on deviantart back in 2007, I sucked at it and everyone kind of resented me--it's that simple and I'm not mad about it. The intelligent people (and I really do mean intelligent) often take a clear pleasure in being frustrated at ignorant, new writers, as though the disparity between anyone's talent here is actually a great distance or an urgent matter. A few of the "harsh" people actually advised me not to write anymore poetry--and when I read my old poems now, that advice makes a lot of sense. Except I was unable to stop, and the fact that I could not eventually made me into a better poet/writer/whatever. A lot goes into making good writing, and what a lot of critiques here do not have is genuine insight and encouragement. The attitude of everything boils down to condescension. Instead of wondering why people are bitter and unreceptive, we should ask: who are we being, that these people are not responding to us? A lot of you say you have given up, and then the problem becomes clear: Teaching and inspiring people is difficult.
If someone asks me for a critique, I say up front they can get the candy-coated version (which is essentially just punctuation, proofreading type stuff) or I can tear it apart. If they want me to tear it apart, then get all mopey because I did, I just don't critique for them again. No point. At least point, I only critique for people I've critiqued for before, so I know what they want and they know what to expect. So, yeah. I suppose having enough of those fragile bubbles explode in my face has made me pretty gun-shy in that arena.
I can understand harsh critiques can be a little difficult to swallow sometimes, but they're necessary. I mean. At the moment, I'm scrambling to edit this novel by Dec 31st (because I'm an idiot) and pretty much every time I present a new draft of something thinking I've gotten rid of all the errors, there's some new complaint or typo or whatever and there's not a lot of scratching the ears happening. But that's kind of the point. I have a deadline, I need to know what the problems are more than I need someone to stroke my ego. Still, I've gotten really discouraged after a few of them (usually when I'm dragging myself to bed at 5 AM after 12 hours of editing) and wanted to give up, but you just have to remind yourself: It's not personal. It's not an attack. And actually, if you think about the time/effort that goes into a critique, even if the words sound negative, it's actually a positive thing. Someone took the time and effort to invest in your project. Appreciate it.
I've learned that it helps to start with something positive, instead of just smacking someone in the face with "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG". Tell them what they're doing RIGHT first, and they'll be much more likely to accept the negative. Otherwise, you just come across as a big bitchy bully.
I've never had a critique rejected or been told by the artist that I am too harsh or rude, but I also try to write all of my critiques in the most professional style possible, and I tailor the critique to the writer. For instance, if I'm critiquing a poem that's totally amateur sing-song rhyme, then I point out simple things to improve that poem, then make suggestions for how the writer can experiment with the same subject in a different format. A lot of writers here are young and very new to the craft, so they honestly have no idea that their work is utter crap compared to more experienced writers. I don't withhold a negative opinion, but I also try to word it in such a way that I don't destroy their enthusiasm for the craft.
I did have the rather amusing situation where one of my critiques was accepted by the artist (who thanked me very nicely), but I was then criticized for writing a critique on something "so masterful" by one of the artist's other readers. It was the closest I've come to being attacked by a fangirl.
To be honest I've just ended up changing the way I critique stuff, not just writing, but any art. You see when I used to hang around more visually orientated forums (GFX, I gave up on it, but that's a different story.) I was known to be a harsh but fair critiquer who tended to tell you what you needed to know and often had a few tips on how to fix things, but I sure as hell didn't sugar coat it. My opening line was often "This is going to sound harsh, but I'm honestly trying to help.".
But since I got on here I changed my style. I rarely write long, in depth critiques anymore, in part because I changed medium, but mainly because I got sick and tired of hearing cry-babies whine. Yes if I see something done well I'll point it out, you need to hear that as much as you need to hear the bad stuff after all. But if I just see a catastrophic mess that can't be saved? I used to point it out, and I used to point out exactly what was needed to make it at least decent. Nowadays? I just give a general passing comment about about some of the big stuff, still TRY to find something good, even if it's a bit of a lie, sugar coat the crap out of it and move on.
And to be honest, I don't even know why I bother; most times I don't. But I guess that once in a blue moon when I'm in a good mood I still want to help someone if I can, but there's just to many thin skinned, spoiled little brats around. But perhaps we should just drop the sugar coating and tell them as it is. It's brutal, butif they can get used to it for long enough to actually listen to some advice they can improve and perhaps the next critique they get won't be as negative.
"This is going to sound harsh, but I'm honestly trying to help." i like that.
there's just to many thin skinned, spoiled little brats around. But perhaps we should just drop the sugar coating and tell them as it is. It's brutal, but if they can get used to it for long enough to actually listen to some advice they can improve and perhaps the next critique they get won't be as negative. i like this, too. they need to develop that thick skin because if they can't handle strangers at dA talking to them, how will they ever be able to handle when they do start shopping their work around? the world is way meaner than we are.
That it is. Heck,just your average English professor in college is going to be meaner than your average person on DA (got me a cold shower this semester. But on the other hand, once he finally did give me a few positive comments I valued them that much more). The world isn't going to be worried about hurting your feelings because frankly you're not important enough for them to even be interested in your feelings. They're looking at your work, and if it sucks and you can't separate yourself from your work that's your problem, not theirs. Time is just to precious to worry about being nice to EVERYONE and it's nothing personal.
I pretty much stopped writing critiques, too. I used to have a thread where people could request them from me. I'd write them, and often they'd go ignored. (Not even marked FAIR or UNFAIR). I'm the sort of person that appreciates an honest critique... but I quickly found out it's foolish to assume everyone else is.
Yhea, I'm the same way. I don't mind a honest critique even if it rips me a new one. Sure if I'm having a bad day I'm gonna be somewhat mopey about it (and probably use it as an excuse to eat more sweets than I should have), but I'll let that critique sit until the next day when I'm most likely feeling better and then read it again and reply to it.
Now I admit I have answered with things along the lines of "Yhea, I see what you mean." or "I agree." But I usually try to give decent replies to good critiques, but I think everyone has moments where they really have nothing other to say than "Yes, you're right." while going back and trying to at least somewhat fix the now so very obvious issues.
I think part of it boils down to: The more you improve and learn about a skill or practice, the more you realize how much there more there is to know. "Education is about learning how much you don't know", or something like that. So I think it's pretty easy for newcomers to think they're not far from the top, just from simple lack of knowing of what all they need to master. Under those circumstances, I can imagine a negative, or even an honest positive critique can come as quite a shock.
People who have learned more, and learned how much more they need to know, tend to better appreciate honest criticism.
I think it's pretty easy to tell from someone's profile what their attitude is... especially if they've written any critiques themselves. I'm sure it's foolish to assume everyone is willing to accept what they dish out - but in general, I think people who go to the trouble to write an in-depth critique would be more appreciative of receiving one themselves.