Monday, February 10, 2014

How to be a Critic and/or Editor

Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. ....   Anton Ego 
"It is pleasant to listen to wise words, but a fool's speech brings him to ruin.  Since he begins with a foolish premise, his conclusion is sheer madness."
"The wise man's words are like goads that spur to action.  They nail down important truths.  Students are wise who master what their teachers tell them.  But, my son, be warned: there is no end of opinions ready to be expressed.  Studying them can go on forever, and become very exhausting!"  ~Ecclesiastes 10:12-13, and 12:11-12

I've been trying to post this for about a month now... never got around to finishing it till recently.  So yeah. (:

It isn't a sin if someone offends us.  It's uncomfortable sometimes and sometimes it hurts a lot, and we shouldn't reply in a mean fashion to someone who has offended us just to make ourselves feel better.  I've seen that happen over and over again on Youtube comments.  Some arguments aren't worth bickering over.  Then there are some that can turn from fiery to cooled down, and they become thoughtful discussions.  That's what I love about having discussions sometimes.  They may feel like they're about to become debates, and that's why it's important to be careful not to be mean or proud with your words, so that it can cool down to a thoughtful discussion with everyone on each side being truthful and humble.
One of our goals in life should be to humble ourselves in our search for wisdom.

Once, when I didn't have a Facebook yet, I heard a little bit about public school life.  Then I learned what a "comeback" was.  And "comebacks" can be funny or smart or make you look smart, but isn't that the only point?  To make you feel better by pushing someone off a chair that isn't there?  When I first heard about come-backs, they sounded good.  I mean, desirable.  You want the world around you to know you're smart, that you aren't witless, that you're here to stay.  So I started thinking about come-backs and tried to learn how to quickly think of a reply to say whenever someone said something that offended me.  Later, after a conversation happened, I'd think of something better I could have said instead of what I did say.

Comebacks are like high heels to make one look taller, makeup to make one look prettier, a mask to cover up tears or weakness.  Now I realize why the world sometimes seems so heartless: 

We're all trying to shield ourselves from being offended, even if the Bible offends us.  So we're constantly batting at people to keep ourselves standing taller than we should.  Reminds me of that spiderman movie.  The third one, however bad some people think it was.  People hurt people when they're hurt.  and those people hurt people in turn.  In cases like this, it is most important to forgive people, and not reply angrily or smart.  In other cases it is best to laugh at oneself.  No one is perfect.  We should stop acting like we are perfect like whenever we make one slip-up, we act like it is a big deal because we don't normally make mistakes.  But we do make mistakes every day.  We should accept correction and move on, even though it damages pride.  But we're supposed to be humble.  Humble like a servant.  Like Cinderella.  Like Christ.

And then there's the case of when someone else errs.
The Bible did say that if someone was doing something wrong, we should confront them.  The scripture about the spec in your neighbor's eye and the log in your own wasn't a forbidding to people to confront others.  It was so that we work on our own lives before trying to confront another person about what they're doing wrong, or at least to acknowledge that I'm not perfect before trying to help someone.  And don't confront someone else about something they're doing wrong just because you're annoyed with them or want to point out something bad.  Do it because you care about their future or the consequences of the something they're doing.
Then there's the case that it isn't any of your business because you don't really know the person that well.  If you haven't confronted them yet, maybe just pray for them.  And if you've already accidentally jumped into a conversation, try to understand from their point of view. 

And then there's the case of critiquing another's work.  You know how there are a lot of critics who are really harsh on films, and how some people (me included) don't like them sometimes because we feel the critic is way too harsh on movies?  I'm beginning to be thankful for those harsh critics, however offending they may seem.  Without criticism, people would think they can make whatever they want happen (in tv shows, movies, everything) and still get lots of money/good reviews.  I'm thankful for critics and editors.   Yes, sometimes they'll point out a flaw in a movie that you don't mind at all or don't think is a big deal.  Sometimes we get annoyed at those critics if we really want to like the movie or book they're talking about.  But I'm thankful even for those critics.

Without the critics we probably won't get better at making movies.  They push the limits, expect a lot of people who make movies or tv shows.  I wish we had more critics for books though, because there are a lot of self-published authors who want to make a lot of money.

Mind you, when I say a critic, I mean someone who writes reviews or helps edit someone's work.  A critic's job is to state the facts only and leave out opinion.  But most of the time they fail.  A review is not merely an opinion, saying "I loved this book SO MUCH YOU MUST READ IT!"  A review is an examination or observation about the work, about the style, about the accuracy, about the theme, and about the effectiveness of it.  And I do not wish for that to change.

 "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere." ~Anton Ego

A lot of the time there are only half-hearted writers, because some don't edit very well, or only write one draft and edit maybe twice.  I love critiquing people's works (if I have the time or if I'm interested in what they're writing.  I only want to critique something if I have something nice to say amongst a lot of criticism) because sometimes it feels easier than editing my own writings.  When I'm reading someone else's story, I'm looking at it for the first time, with my own lens.  I can try to figure out the overall basic point of what someone is saying.  When I'm trying to critique my own writing, I have probably already read it several times and the words have begun to loose meaning for me and it's harder to spot mistakes or clumsiness.
 I'm thankful for the freedom of speech, and therefore must endure some stupid things some people might say.  For though it's possible to say anything we want to, many things should be left unsaid.  One can determine their life by what they say.  One can give their death sentence if they say something mean before a King.

"Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold...  The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.  In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them.  And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost."
~J. R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories (essay)

What say you?
~Emilyn J. Wood