Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Perspective: Let's Get Critical

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I have a difficult relationship with criticism.

On one hand, I'm a master of it. I can criticize my own creative endeavours until the cows come home. Whether it's my poetry, my attempt at a novel, or even essays. It lacks subtlety. It doesn't sound intelligent enough. It's not as good as *insert name of favourite writer*. 

What I can't seem to do is find a way of writing eloquent critical book reviews. I've said I won't review books I don't like. And that much is true, but as far as my blog readers are concerned they probably think I adore every book I review on here and that's just not the case.

Yes, I like the books I review, but that's not to say that there aren't aspects of the plot, writing style or characters that I don't like occasionally. 

I was speaking to a friend about this recently, I believe it's a confidence issue, and perhaps a symptom of being surrounded by so many successful writers in my day to day life. I can't help but feel inferior to them. Who am I to start criticizing their work? I've not written a novel!

I will also do absolutely anything to avoid confrontation, so the idea of saying something that might spark disagreement isn't always desirable. 

And what if there is a secret streak of nastiness inside me? What if I get sucked into the universe of bitchy bloggers (and let's face it, there are a lot of them out there)? Having watched the 2007 comedic documentary Heckler, I'd do just about anything to avoid becoming a critical blogger for a living. 

I'm talking about people who enjoy writing imaginative (and often extreme) insults about artists of all kinds. These can sometimes be hurtful and upsetting, rather than critical. Of course, if you have had a negative review of something you've written/directed/produced, you could always take the Tim Minchin approach and write a song in retaliation...

Yet I know that the best writing is critical. I understand that writing critically about books is a way of ensuring people become better writers. It's a way of beginning debates and discussions that are enriching and valuable, both for me, and for the writers.

So I'm making a pact with myself, and you can all be witness to this. I will make my reviews more critical. This doesn't mean I'll be lambasting anyone who appears on this blog, but I will be looking for ways to make my reviews more useful to the discerning reader. 


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