They are the bug bear of any creative, whether it be in the arts, music or literature. These self imposed paragons of any field are both a saint and sinner: if they write horrible things about you then they are worms but when a glowing testimonial slides like nectar from their pens in effusive waves of bonhomie then they are experts in their field and should know what they are talking about; get a good enough one and we are all likely to quote them.
I know this sounds like double standards but it is within the nature of humans to pur into the sunlight of the positive, yet crawl into the shadows of negative criticism and never mention it again.
But when I read a comment on the webcomics community of Google+ on this very subject the other day, the writer's view worried me. It made me look to myself and actually think about my own views on critics and how they affect people and for what they're worth, here they are:
First of all lets delineate between a critic and a troll. Critics, however misguided they sometimes are, do actually and genuinely think that what they have to say is valid and constructive. A troll on the other hand is a cruel, vindictive piece of detritus that glues itself to the sole of your shoe; but unlike the dog mess that is its nearest cousin, it's not as easy to wipe off.
I have been lucky so far and only had one such troller attack this site, but when I asked him or her to explain themselves and their issues with a little more exactitude, they disappeared like summer mist into the goblin swamp they came from, muttering something about wanting the precious and I never heard from him/her/it again.
But onto critics and my thoughts. The cartoonist on the Google+ forum stated that they had had their comic reviewed by a prestigious site and it had been, shall we say, slightly less than favourable. He did note also that his fan base, which wasn't huge but respectable, seemed to like what he did; due to the fact that they kept on coming back day after day.
It's what he did next that troubled me: he apparently was so upset by the write up he took what they had said on board and tweaked his cartoon to suit the critic, and low and behold the critic re evaluated his strip and placed in under the sun lamp of glowing praise. The artist then said how glad he was to have had the positive criticism (as that was how he now saw it) and as a huge wave of conciliatory effusiveness washed over them both they got married had three children; one of each: a boy, a girl and a critic and they now live happily ever after in number 64, Nirvana Street, The Land of Milk and Honey...maybe?
This was when I sat and thought about what he was saying and how he came about his decision.
First off I began by thinking about my views on critics and its this: I don't actively seek them out. I'm sure that my work is being criticised all over this big old web just as I'm also sure there are more than a fair share of positive comments being aired. But the thing is it's only an opinion. Don't get me wrong when its in my favour it's an opinion I like and vice-versa to the nay-sayers. But my point is I don't actively seek it out and the example of the webcomic creator above is a perfect point in case as to why I don't.
By his own admission he had a respectable set of fans who were obviously enjoying what he did. But because a critic--- who he was told was powerful--- didn't like what he was producing, he changed what was working for his present fans in favour of what would placate the powerful critic, and presumably more fans of the critic. I just felt for the fans because if there's one maxim that was not only ignored here but trampled to death in the rush to please, its 'You can't please all of the people all of the time'. But in one fell swoop he turned his comic screeching into a u-turn so one person could have what they wanted against that of the masses. It isn't noted, by the way, how many of his previous fans wandered off muttering into their morning tea and biscuits.
So put simply: I don't listen to critics because I trust you, my readers, to look at what I do and if you like what you see you will continue to come back and if you don't, you wont. But if I tried chasing up everyone who came and left and promised them a tailor made blog that would better enhance their reading experience, you wouldn't have the blog you have here now.
So I'll make you this promise: I will continue to be the idiot I am. I will carry on writing funny irreverent stuff. I will happily produce more webcomics on a Friday, do tutorials and keep you updated as to what I'm up to and I will always, always have your entertainment in mind. All I ask in return is if you read a review about my blog don't tell me.
Unless its a positive one of course.
Incidentally the picture at the top of this page was originally used to illustrate A Bitter Pill a short story about one of my doomed job interviews. If you fancy a laugh at my expense (which seems to be the general idea of this blog) then please click on the link and do so.
Also, next week I'm planning to post a letter I sent to a well known peanut manufacturer. Why? Well you'll have to keep on checking in: all I'll say is it involves my mind, a wet Sunday afternoon and the fact that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Interested? I hope you are; I do this stuff so you don't have to.
If you like my blog and the things that I say and do, please tell your friends; mention me on Facebook, Twitter and any of the other fine social media networking sites you use. I would love to have my work reach a much larger audience and although I could no doubt eventually get there under my own steam, I'll get there a lot quicker with your help, so please, please spread the word.