I don’t do this very often but I’m going to write something serious. Don’t worry, I’ve dotted scatological humour throughout 🙂
Should we write critically about other people’s posts? By critically I don’t mean shouting “you’re crap” and then running away, but critical in the sense of offering constructive feedback.
For some of us this question creates all sorts of wibbles and wobbles.
On a basic level the answer is easy. Should we write critically? Maybe. Just ask the blogger if they mind critical feedback – if they say yes then provide it.
(But do remember there are times when it is clear that critical feedback is not appropriate.)
Only it often doesn’t feel that simple.
Why is this?
There are two extremes when creating something and putting it in the world. The one extreme is utter fear, where in fact no creativity is let out – and even normal words are hard to utter sometimes.
The other extreme is complete egocentrism, where no-one else’s thoughts or opinions matter at all and creativity is put out and thought of as brilliant and beyond reproach.
The fearful person has a dysfunctional relationship to their art. If anyone criticises their art the fearful person believes that such criticism reflects upon them personally too. Offering thoughts on re-working their sculpture hurts them as much as being mean about their looks or intelligence. It isn’t seen for the ‘offered idea’ it is, but as an attack. If their sculpture isn’t good enough then they aren’t good enough.
The egocentric also has a dysfunctional relationship to their art. If anyone criticises it then they are ignored or dismissed as an idiot, because “I am perfect and thus so is my art.”
Fairly extreme examples, but we are all on the scale between them, sometimes in different places about different things, even at different times.
One day, waking happy, I am ready for criticism about my guitar playing because I know I’m good but also that I have much to learn. The next day someone criticising my finger-picking will have me in tears, because today I’m playing for the anniversary of my lost child.
How difficult it can be to know how our criticism might be received! We might critique a post one day and be thanked, the next day be shouted at and the next be unfollowed and our goats set on fire.
All Acts Are Art (or AAAA for short!)
It is important to try and make our expressions mindful, to try and live life in a way that does not cause harm and to not deliberately speak harshly.
That said, we cannot know how our words or actions will be interpreted. I offered some condolence to a friend recently only to anger them. I have said mean things in a bad mood only to see my target laugh and say “you’re a good bloke.”
If I say, “you’re crap,” it does not make me evil. I might be having a bad day. I might be in great pain. I might be right.
Equally, if I say “you are lovely,” it does not make me nice. I might say it to everyone without meaning it, I might be after something and flattering you. I might be wrong.
In any case I cannot control people’s response to either my kindness or cruelty. People are mental! They have agendas, weird beliefs, paranoias, arrogance… it’s a minefield. All we can do is be mindful of ourselves, and accept our intentions were good – then trust to the world with our offerings.
It helps to remember that we are not what we ‘create’. I write songs, I am not songs. You write posts, you are not those posts.
We are not our words, our sculptures, our posts, photographs or any other expression of ourselves. All these expressions are acts of personal art, once made they are separate from ourselves and we must detach from them.
Sucking up to everyone with “love your work,” and “ooh you’re brilliant,” is fine if you want a relationship of stagnant mutual masturbation. Many of us do. But a deeper friendship requires more honesty, which may sometimes be painful.
What do you want? What does the blogger want?
This clearly isn’t just about blogging, although the blog-o-sphere has its own unique etiquette.
Real friendships require us to be vulnerable and to be fully ourselves. We risk meeting, and will inevitably find, people who hate us for what we are, not because we’re crap, not because they’re evil, just because we don’t match each other – at least not right now.
People who really know you can’t be mean to you, because they know your story and the battles you have fought to be who you are. So anyone who is mean to you does not know you. So it cannot be personal. In which case they’re not being mean to you, they’re just being mean.
Your expressions (posts, photo’s, poems etc.) are yet another step away from being you. Any criticism, good or bad, has no relationship to you. Good or bad, critique is just thought – take it, rewrite in its light, or ignore it. No harm done.
Ask Ask Ask
As faceatthewindow commented to me – if you’re going to give it, be ready to take it. (I think she was secretly being a bit dirty! Okay, I just hope she was. Alright, but leave me with my fantasies will you.)
In the blog-o-sphere some will not want criticism. That’s not why they’re here. Maybe they’re too arrogant to think they need it, maybe they get criticism elsewhere, maybe their too shy to cope with it.
Others are here and willing or brave enough to learn and will welcome criticism.
Whichever is the case, both those who offer critique and those who receive it, only need to follow the same rule that a few more people could do with following in the real world.
Be forgiving. Be understanding. Be open. Be mindful.
Always bear in mind that criticism is of the work, not the self. The critic may be as frightened as the one critiqued, and is making themselves vulnerable both to try and offer new perspectives and potentially a deeper blog-friendship. Honour that vulnerability.
The blogger is making themselves vulnerable by posting, so be gentle as well as honest in your critique.
More than anything – Just Ask! It may be the first step in a more beautiful Blendship 🙂