Levelling criticism…

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If you can’t say something good about something, then don’t say it – so goes the saying or something like that. So the blog I have written about Argo I will put aside, which basically said that Oskar (my dog) could have directed it better and it was a piece of racist drivel (but it took about 800 words to say it!). It would probably have brought both a fatwa and the CIA down on me!

So it made me think about what we want from feedback and supportive criticism. I was talking to a long-time friend in Cardiff about Renegade Writers and how the critiques can be rigorous but very supportive, and how I would find it very difficult to write without the feedback I get. Members point out the faults and praise the well written. It is very easy to criticise – less easy to praise, and equally hard to accept praise. The most important thing is to criticise constructively and not personally, something I try and do.

One of the blogs I read by a student, Shannon, posted that she had some feedback that hurt her feelings deeply, she was writing very personally about grief, and her similar aged fellow students had no or very little knowledge of grief so gave poor feedback. So how much should you invest of yourself into something, to not lead to feeling a critique is criticism of oneself, rather than the work? It is something I have touched on before because in my poetry (there is a link to the left of this post) is very personal and maybe open to the criticism of being self-absorbed. Maybe categorised as arrogant in the fact that I want you to see the world through my eyes, but as ‘artists’ isn’t that what we are doing, we are arrogant enough to publish a book, sing a song, show a painting, expecting others to look, read, listen to our innermost thoughts and observations. Perhaps in my life I needed more of that arrogance and become the ‘artist’ I knew I could be? Maybe. ‘Artists’ are not always the nicest people because of this, self-belief is not a particularly ‘nice’ trait to have.

Another long-time friend I talked to over the weekend had felt let down by some friends who were ‘fair weather’ friends. I am reading Javier Marias and over the last 50 pages he has discussed how much to tell people, who to trust, whether friends or family can be trusted with secrets. In my poetry I have opened up maybe beyond what ‘you’ want to hear, I want to share my experience partly to find out about myself and partly to say to others you are not alone, others have the feelings or loneliness that you are feeling. It is not for everyone and I have to expect to be criticised for it, maybe personally criticised, I think I am strong enough to take it, but have to be prepared for it.

When I was at Art College about 200 years ago, we had regular sessions where other students would sit around your work with staff and after attempting to explain what you were doing, they would give sometimes very hard feedback. It was tough. But it made one realise what others who were not inside your head were seeing. Some students were quite disturbed by the levels of criticism they received, but it did make me able to self-start, however it also made me over criticise my own work to a point of being unable to create, until the last ten years when I am much freer, however I still find it hard to draw or paint, but writing does it for me, at the moment anyway.

Today’s photograph is in Tunstall on a windy bitterly cold bright day at about 10am.

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