Wednesday, December 19, 2012

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING?

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING?


You can’t unwrap this gift, and you can’t wear, or eat, or smell it.  But you can read it and mull it over.  Often a surprise, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, a critic’s review of your book really is a gift even when saying what you don’t want to hear.  Especially then for that’s most likely a critique that speaks the truth.

The question, of course, is do you want the truth?  Would you rather have someone say that you look beautiful, or that you have spinach in your teeth?  Personally, if the spinach is there, I want to know.

A version of this question was tackled by Robert De Niro in the November 18th issue of The New York Times Magazine when he was interviewed by A. O. Scott.  In response to Scott’s, “What is your relationship to critics?  Or to your own reviews.” De Niro answers,

“. . . if you didn’t have critics—even though they can annoy you and
upset you—if you didn’t have a critic, who would tell you how it is? 
Because people won’t tell you.  When you do a movie and you’re
showing it to people or audiences or friends, they’re never going to
say that they dislike it.  Because they’re with you and they know
what you went through.  So they’ll always find a positive thing to say.”

Here’s a master at his game welcoming criticism so he can hear the truth about his performance.  Terrific!  While I’d rather learn that my Murders by Design Mysteries are delightful romps with a spunky, unforgettable heroine playing amateur sleuth, I agree with De Niro that “. . . the people who you’ll get real feedback from are critics.”  Then he hedges his bets by adding—and I love this—“Especially good critics.”

And therein lies the subject of another blog.  Happy holidays, everybody! 

6 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Yes, it's tough to hear the truth sometimes, but as long as it's done with the intent to help someone grow, I think it's so important.

As a parent, I've tried to be careful about coddling my kids to the point they believe they're perfect. Nobody's perfect, and that's OKAY. If we were perfect, there'd be nothing left to learn, which seems sad, IMO. In fact, at their school, the teachers tell parents not to tell our kids "good job" because it's not specific. If we like something they're doing, tell them specifically what they're doing well. I want my kids to be prepared to hear bad news, cope with disappointment, and face imperfection as a challenge. (I'm not saying I verbally bash or criticize them...it's a tough world out there. I try to be there to help them through tough moments with friends, homework, teachers, etc., and try to reshape those experiences as learning experiences.)

Whew! I should get off my soapbox now, huh? LOL

LynnetteAustin said...

Yes, we do have to hear the truth, even when it's sometimes painful. However, Jean, your Murders by Design Mysteries really are delightful romps with a spunky, unforgettable heroine playing amateur sleuth. So, there you go! Enjoyed reading this. As always, I love your dry sense of humor!

Rita said...

Anne Marie it's a question of when does encouragement become a lie? As you said it's though out there and not preparing children for it is a huge disservice.
As for critics they are one person. I respect their right to say what they think. I don't respect anyone who makes vicious unproductive comments about someones work.

Jean Harrington said...

Thanks for your comments to Anne Marie, Lynnette and Rita. I guess De Niro's fine tuning the subject by saying it's good critics who do us a service is correct. Vicious critiques are simply insults with an intent to hurt not help.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Critics... such an interesting topic, Jean. There's one school of thought out there that a writer should never read her own reviews. She should get a trusted friend to look through them and pass along the good ones, including the ones that are negative but of value to the writing.

Personally, I don't have the strength to do that. :-)

Jean Harrington said...

Nor do I, Marcelle, You need to know what the "enemy" is saying.