Welcome to the series where you can share posts from the early days of your blogging journey. Today the second post from Adrienne Morris is on the subject of toxic criticism and how to handle it.
How to Handle Criticism by Adrienne Morris.
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Benjamin Franklin
The other day my husband and I were discussing who we were going to hire to put in an asphalt driveway after two different companies sent their men with estimates.
One of the men who came by wasn’t a very good speller but had been laying asphalt for 20 years. The other came with his wife and laptop, fancy postcards and a brand new truck. My husband was undecided since the estimates came in almost the same. He took to his own laptop and started reading local reviews. The bad speller’s company had a perfect 5 star rating. The fancier guy’s company had one bad review.
The wife of fancy guy responded to the bad review. Not good. She passive aggressively pushed the blame for the customer complaints onto the customer. She then described the death of a family member and various other personal issues that may have prevented her in 2014 from returning the disappointed customer’s phone calls. She pointed out that her company was a family run business and one bad review could really hurt its reputation.
At church the other day an artsy acquaintance and I were talking about swapping my book for her music CD. “What if we hate each other’s work?” she asked, jokingly.
Critics have been around since Satan grumbled about his place in heaven, yet pondering the asphalt situation (my husband chose the bad speller) left me thinking that maybe being a critic wasn’t the best way to pursue a happy life. There is a savage thrill in expressing a heavy-handed opinion with a superior toss of the head during a movie about super heroes.
But is it really fun for those people around you?
On the rare occasion when I actually leave the house to go to a movie I ask my husband what the reviews are for the film. He usually responds, “Who cares? I want to make up my own mind.”
My husband takes a bad movie in stride. He’ll admit to a movie being less than he hoped but does not get worked up about it. He also never sits down to write bad reviews. I never do either. I may rant about something for a few days, or complain to my husband about a dumb book that’s really popular, but I have no desire to put pen to paper if in my mind the book or film or asphalt company deserves less than 4 stars.
Some people seem to think they’re doing the world a great service warning a buyer against a book, movie or driveway but sometimes silence is just as appropriate as words. A book with no reviews leaves just enough doubt in a reader’s mind without having the author’s reputation tarnished forever (or until an EMP STRIKE takes down all electronics).
Only once did I check out a reviewer’s other reviews when she left a bizarrely personal and vicious attack/review. It was very eye-opening. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to live in her world of miserable negativity. I’m not sure I believe in karma exactly but wonder if in this age of YELP and Amazon we are not turning into the crows I see on my property who peck baby birds to death for fun
When I used to teach 5th graders, the rule was that the kids had to think of three nice things to say about a fledgling writer’s efforts before the pecking began. My eleven-year-old students very easily learned this skill and the young writers flourished. Adults sometimes seem to think it would take too much time for such civility.
Critical thinking and perceptive critiques certainly have their place and it is almost never worth it to respond to criticism with whining or defensiveness, but I wonder if my mother’s advice, “if you have nothing good to say . . .” isn’t something we all should consider now and again. Maybe we should even consider what our true motives are at times. I can usually tell when I’m just in the mood to be a bitch (so can everyone else).
Once someone close to me said, “Well, it’s not like you’re the best writer who ever lived.”
REALLY? Who knew? The person is someone I know loves me and her words came out wrong (or did they?) but they still annoy me . . . a little.
In the old myths the gods pecked at and destroyed each other in battles of ego, jealousy or stupidity. What kid didn’t love reading about such battles? But none of us are gods. We play them in critique groups or in dark movie theaters and basically just annoy and rob joy from others (again, I do realize that sometimes criticism is good and appropriate).
There may be some people who produce junk on purpose, but most artists and asphalt layers are just trying to do their best in life. Silence is golden in many (most cases).
My singer acquaintance at church and I decided that if we didn’t like each other’s work we’d say nothing. That way we could each pretend that maybe the other person hadn’t yet found time to read or listen to the works that bared our souls.
What about you? What’s your favorite example of toxic criticism? What has been someone’s most helpful criticism in your life?
Thanks to Adrienne on the subject of criticism and I am sure she would love to read your feedback..
Books in The Tenafly Road Series
At this point, I have kind of grown up with this series and it is interesting how it has somewhat mirrored my life. You always think the next phase is going to provide answers and while it does often do that, it then brings a whole new set of catastrophes to worry about. I love that this series has a subtle humor to it, similar to that of a private joke you have with yourself. I’ve cared for each character almost equally, kind of the the way I would love those in my family. They each provide a different perspective that I can find myself relating to in some way, even if I completely disagree. Definitely my favorite in the series so far.
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Adrienne-Morris/e/B00CDO9CU
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adrienne-Morris/e/B00CDO9CU0
Read more reviews and follow Adrienne on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8266592.Adrienne_Morris
About Adrienne Morris
Adrienne Morris is author of the novel The House on Tenafly Road (selected as an Editors’ Choice Book by The Historical Novel Society and a Notable Indie Book of the Year) and The Tenafly Road Series, the continuing family saga of the Weldon and Crenshaw families of Gilded Age Englewood, New Jersey.
“I write family sagas because I love people. I love their flaws. I love their dreams and deceptions. Historical fiction allows me to reckon with thoughts and feelings I’d rather not address in the here and now. There’s a certain safety and freedom in placing personal revelations one hundred years behind you.”
Musty old libraries, abandoned houses and corsets bring to life the many characters crowding Adrienne’s imagination, but it’s the discovery that people, no matter the century they live in, share the same struggles, hopes and desires (the greatest desire being love) that keeps her up at night writing. Adrienne’s novels are love letters to those of us who feel less than perfect. They are an invitation to love ourselves and others despite our many imperfections.
Adrienne also milks goats, chases chickens and sometimes keeps her dogs off the table.
Connect to Adrienne
If you would like to share some of your festive archive posts for December from when you began blogging, then please send one or two links to firstname.lastname@example.org.