Criticism or Ridicule?

Free speech is a beautiful thing. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and has the ability to express it.

But, sometimes, I wonder what the point of expressing an opinion in a certain way is. I love to read. I love to write. I love this form of expression – and many of you who follow me on Google+ or Facebook will have noticed the YouTube video Words Are My Sandbox.

I learned from reviewing other authors and from working in critique groups that often it’s good to sandwich the bad stuff inside the good things you find about the piece. There are some where it can be difficult to find something nice. There are also venues with spoken-only reading and critique where it is easy to focus on just one flaw and miss all the rest of the beauty of that segment. Many groups implement rules about how to treat other writers and others try to focus on how professional the advice may be – but nearly all of them are not about tearing down an amateur. I know I never would want to be the reason someone decides to stop expressing opinions through words.

How does that change when someone becomes a big name professional? Why is it that I hear conversations where people discuss only the bad aspects of some series and trash the author for it? There are so many examples, but here are two:

1. Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series seems to take a bad rap from a lot of people. I know many who love the novels and read them again and again. I read them and enjoyed them, but they’re not something that will draw me to read them 50 million times. I’ve heard people call them nothing but a teenage romance and think it’s awful for a 110 year old man (or however old Edward’s character was at the time of publication) to be after a 17 year old girl. Whatever else you say about them, didn’t Meyer make some interesting characters?

2. J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series has throwbacks to the British boarding school novels. Sure. I’m sure there were other critics, possibly about the whole good versus evil thing. But there were rich things in the story, too, that some of the amateur people won’t admit.

Maybe it boils down to jealousy or something else I can’t easily name. I don’t think a single novel will fit every reader out there – which is why we have so many different genres and subgenres and points of view on everything. I wonder if that’s how you know you’re successful – that there are people out there trying to trash your accomplishment. Perhaps I’m just too thin-skinned and I worry what people will say about my work if it’s out there more. It hasn’t stopped me from pursuing publishing yet, and it isn’t likely to in the future.

I can acknowledge that many of the authors I read and enjoy have flaws. Some of them take much less flack than others, but some are much better known than the rest, too. It doesn’t make anyone more discerning to burn another in effigy.

Next time you want to stomp all over someone else’s expressed art, think to yourself- did I even try to see the good in it? What is it about this that so many people find fascinating? We don’t have to “agree to disagree” (don’t get me started on the wrongness of this phrase) or agree on anything at all, but it might be nice to acknowledge that not everyone who disagrees with you is completely wrong. And, also, that the tired, worn-out, dog-eared copy of whatever your favorite novel is has its own baggage. Peace!