“In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
– Anton Ego, Ratatouille
This quote from Ratatouille really hit home today, as yesterday I found myself to be the subject of a blog post, where I was personally ridiculed for my ‘extreme’ positivity. The author of the blog said that I had nothing at my core, and that my Spirituality was based on pretty pictures with absurd quotes on them, and that I foolishly believed that the Universe would provide me with everything I needed. He had unfriended me on Facebook because my posts of positive affirmations were offending him. Had this been someone I barely knew, it would have hurt less, I presume. But this was someone I knew and had trusted, and had wished nothing but good for. I asked to be unsubscribed from his blog, lest I be subjected to more of his negative rants, and he took offence to that, after all, why shouldn’t he express his opinion?
By all means, express your opinion. But know that it says more about you, than the person you talk about. And should the subject of your rantings express their desire not to read rubbish written about them, then you should respect that.
So what should we do, those of us who put our work, and ourselves out there in the world, when someone takes it upon themselves to tear us apart? A few months ago, I came across the story of an author who had listed her book, pre-publication, on Goodreads. For no known reason, several members took it upon themselves to write terrible reviews of her books, and very nasty things about her, which I will not repeat here. In response to this, she decided not to publish the book, and withdrew from the Goodreads community altogether. Because of that senseless trolling, the world will never see her words, read her masterpieces. Was her choice the right one? Only she will know that. I hope that one day she may be brave enough to bare her soul again.
Some might say that artists and writers need to toughen up, that criticism is necessary, and that we should just learn to deal with it. But why should we? Isn’t it our sensitivity that makes our words and images great? We dare to be vulnerable so that the critic doesn’t have to. And is criticism actually necessary? We do it because it is the norm, but I don’t believe it is for the good of anyone. I love the quote that Brene Brown uses often, that inspired her book – Daring Greatly. It was in a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “
We artists and writers are in the arena daily, and we are continually picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after being ridiculed or slighted for our work. But we mustn’t allow the critic or the pessimist stop us from being vulnerable and open. We are not weak when we are vulnerable, we are strong. Because we are not afraid to be who we truly are, no matter what anyone else might say or do to us.
My advice to those who are finding themselves the subject of derision or negative criticism – is to smile, and know that as Neale Donald Walsch says – ‘No one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world.’ The critic’s view of the world may be dark and depressing, but yours need not be. Don’t take their words to heart, because for every critic, there will be many people who love you, and love your work.
So finally, I would like to say thank you, to the one who said I was a ‘doolally flake’, because you have reminded me to surround myself with people who believe in me, as I believe in myself too. And in spite of all you have said, I still wish you the best.