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a passionate repentance

Okay, I have a question. When does constructive criticism become…

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may God stand
Okay, I have a question.

When does constructive criticism become more than that? Where's the line?

Is it all a matter of personal interpretation, or is there an objective standard? When can you say with some dignity "Why did you feel the need to include this?" without sounding like you're throwing all the toys out of the pram? Am I, as the one being criticized, meant to accept everything that's said? Where does the barrier marker between 'okay' and 'too personal' fall? And is it acceptable to say "I appreciate your view but your timing really sucks?"

It always bugs me when it's about my writing. That's something I work hard to be objective about and adult about but writing is personal to me. I realize that that is a tremendous handicap. It probably makes me a real pain in the ass to talk to too. At the same time, I feel that it's important, if you're going to criticize someone's writing, give them something they can fix. I've never felt that this strongly before, I guess I've been pretty arrogant and heedless about it. Telling me "You have too many run on sentences, and you need to fix them--here's how." That's concrit. That tells me what I did wrong but also tells me how to fix it.

Telling me "Your characters are too girly.."
How the hell do I fix that? That's not constructive criticism, that's expression your preference. Your preference isn't for the way I write. Okay, that's fine. Everyone has different tastes. I now know *very* well that you do not like those characters, or the way I write. Is that what you wanted to accomplish? If what you wanted was to help me grow as a writer, then you have to not only tell me what's wrong, but tell me how you think it can be fixed. This isn't a technical question about spelling or comma placement.

And while we're on the subject..do all truths have to be told? Is some higher truth served by it? Sometimes honesty may be honest but it also feels like a kick in the ass. And I'm not really sure what good thing is achieved by it. Some truths--like saying to my father "You are sick and you can't leave the hospital, and you have a particular sickness and this is what it is, and why..yes. I can see it. My dad is demanding to go home. He's upset and he's scared and he's sometimes nasty. It's hard on my mother, and she has to be brutal with him on this one thing so he understands what's going on. There's a world of difference between that and telling someone "I don't like the way you ..oh..(pulling this out of the air) fold laundry. I think you do a sucky job. I've never liked it, and I wish you'd stop." Wouldn't it accomplish the same thing if you simply said "Hey, I like folding laundry. Why don't you let me do that and you can wash dishes, since I know you don't mind that." Situation solved, right?

I'm just being hypersensitive. And I know it. I haven't seen things very clearly for a while now, and it's time to change and pay attention. Otherwise the inattention and hypersensitivity won't stop there.
  • I do believe, my deeply cherished one, that not all truths need to be told...

    *very tender robed embrace*
    • Professor,
      thank you.

      Not for agreeing with me, but for being yourself. Because you give those tender and utterly *selfless* embraces, and remind me by doing so, of the selfless love of Our Lord.

      It's just my pride that got a scrape. I will survive. But I tell you it eased my heart to feel such compassionate gentleness.

      A very great sinner,

      Edited at 2007-12-06 04:39 am (UTC)
    • hugs to you Professor and to you koinonia..

      is there anything i can do?

  • Hmm... I can think of any number of stories where 'your characters are too girly' would be a valid criticism, rather than a mere expression of taste, but you are right that on its own it's a lot less clear and more subjective than 'you have too many run on sentences'.

    And, yes, I do have a tendency to write run on sentences myself, and get told off for it by my betas... *g*
  • I don't know the situation here, but it might make a difference if the criticism you received was solicited or not. People will offer up their opinions on just about anything and unless given guidelines, they will often range wherever those people feel like ranging at the moment, sometimes helpful, sometimes not. If you are asking for help and criticism, perhaps asking specific questions or saying what things you would like feedback on would help you the most. In general, I think criticism is hard...both to give well and to receive.

    And no...I don't think all truths need to be told. In fact, sometimes it's better if they are not.
  • With regard to truth, yes, there are times you don't tell the whole truth, particularly when it does more harm than good.

    In your father's case, being gentle won't accomplish anything better than being blunt but being blunt is hard, particularly when you're doing it for the best of all possible reasons and you receive pain in return. You hit the nail on the head - he's scared. He doesn't want to face what happens next. I can't help but think, somewhere deep inside he's horrified at what he's doing and doesn't want to be nasty and hurtful but that part is overwhelmed by the fear, right now. *hugging hard*

    About criticism: the thing to remember is that all criticism is personal opinion, from the New York Times Review of Books to that dude at Starbucks waxing poetic about the latest literary world darling. The book I love is going to be the book someone else loathes, all because people bring different expectations, experiences, memories, joys and sorrows to everything we do, including writing and reading.

    When it comes to your own work, the thing to ask yourself is 'does this help me improve my writing?' If it does, great! If you can't see a benefit to it, set the criticism aside. You don't need to take every critique and do something with it. If you tried to do that, your writing would be a mishmash of other's expectations and not the work that comes from your own heart and soul.

    In this particular instance I'd ask the person to be more specific, what does 'girly' mean to them and how does it detract from the writing. You can work with 'this person's actions are inconsistent with the mood of the scene'. You can't work with 'he's too girly'.
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