“And, of course, with the birth of the first artist came the inevitable afterbirth- the critic.” – Mel Brook’s “Birth of the Art Critic.”
Getting a publisher interested in my first novel, Voice on the Prairie, was a fulfillment of years of hard work, rejection letters, and dreams-come-true. I felt like little kid the night before Christmas waiting on my box of books to hit the streets.
Naturally, the first 3 responses to my new book were all negative.
Artists don’t like to be confined to rules, but there is one rule that all artists will agree on; if you create something, someone will find fault with it.”From the time we let the crayons slip outside the line, someone pointed out where they think we went wrong.
However, I’ve learned that if I can identify what kind of critic has launched a grenade to blow up my creation, then I can react to the criticism in a positive manner. The adolescent retort of, Oh, yeah, well so are you!” just doesn’t work anymore.
Different kinds of critics
The Ignorant Critic is like the sports fan on his third six pack yelling at the wide receiver to run faster. They don’t know what they’re talking about but assume that if they’re loud enough, someone will think they are an expert.
The Destructive Critic will usually lie first by saying things like, I want to give you some constructive criticism. The destructive critic points out your faults without any suggestions or solutions for improvement.
The Constructive Critic seldom, if ever, uses the word constructive criticism while talking to you about becoming better. They’ll use words like challenge, or suggestion, or encourage. A good critic can walk you around yourself to see a blind spot in such a way that you choose to become better without any sense of shame for not being perfect.
The Vindictive Critic is someone who wants to deliberately hurt you with criticism. Yet, they often say they are being constructive.
The Comparative Critic likes to compare you in a negative way to someone else or to them. They can do it better than you because, well, they think they’re better than you. Or they compare you to some superstar.
The Jealous Critic is hard to spot because they’re sneaky; no one will ever admit they are jealous of you. But they point out your faults, not so much because you’re wrong, but because they want to be superior to you. Their criticism is more about their inadequacy than it is about your faults.
The Unhappy Critic is never happy with anything – especially themselves – so they criticize anything their unhappiness runs over each day. Avoid these people like the plague.
How to react to criticism
Regardless of the motive of the criticism, it is always good to examine the truth of the criticism.
- Is it true?
- If it’s true, what steps do I take to improve?
- Do I really care what that person thinks?
- How can I turn negative criticism into a positive force in my life?
I often read this quote by President Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Some folks say I just need thicker skin. I’m not sure I want thicker skin, but I do want deeper roots.
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