I always encourage positive criticism and this weekend two readers contacted me with the same opinion. We really enjoy what you write, they said, but some days the pieces get too long. They don’t fit into the timeslot which maybe a sip of mid-morning coffee or gap between tasks. We love them but less is better.
The first reaction to criticism, even if you have asked for it – which I did, is to go defensive. If I had been given the chance I would say, they are as short as I can make them and as long as they need to be, but, I wasn’t given the chance. I took it on the chin. It was fair criticism because I am writing for my audience and my audience said they wanted less.
It is not just writers that ask for constructive criticism. Often, we ask for criticism when we know we have done a good job. We are creating the space for praise. I know when I am doing it but I can’t stop myself.
Over these last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to sign copies of my books and, especially when they are my book of children’s poems, I ask the parents to write to me and tell me about the reaction and the impact they have had. I actively encourage criticism while deep down really wanting to know that I have entertained their little ones. I would be mortified if they ever came back with a long list of complaints.
But that has happened.
I remember with my first book my proud mother shared it with her friends accompanied again with that request for constructive comments and opinions. I couldn’t believe it when someone wrote saying that they didn’t like it. I mean, how couldn’t you like it?
There was a year of my life in that book but worse they found an error. It is only a small error of detail which had been missed by both myself and my editor and ever since then it has rankled. Someday I will publish a second edition if only to get rid of that one mistake.
Later books were criticised for too much sex. I defended myself as would an actress naked throughout a film. It was necessary for the plot with appropriate nudity and never gratuitous. I re-read the scenes and maybe I had lingered just a tad too long on perfectly formed breasts and erect nipples.
But that audience of my mother’s friends were provincial, ultra old age pensioners and maybe not my target audience except that there are lots of them and they have been brought up buying and reading books. If my Mum is not knitting then she always has a book on the go. That is not an audience that a writer should disregard.
These were private comments which I was able to balance with other voices. I could balance what to accept with those I rejected. I was fortunate. The criticism was posted straight to me and not published anonymously on a review site.
That is the most difficult criticism to accept. The audience of the professional critic is not the restaurant or theatre but the casual reader who wants to be entertained more than educated. I think the same of Trip Advisor. I suspect the reason for many a visit is only to become a peeved reviewer.
Complaining and criticism have become a way of life but don’t let me stop you telling me what you think. I am thick skinned and I take it all with a pinch of salt remembering that the quality of advice I receive is proportional to the effort to produce it.
A final postscript on GDPR which come into force on Friday
Your email inbox will have been full of sites asking you to subscribe and actively opt-in to meet the requirements of GDPR.
I have to do the same.
Current subscribers will soon be receiving my GDPR email but with a note that over the next month, the blog will be moving away from the Brovary publishing site to my personal site www.gerrycryer.com which will be activated later this week.