“I am an artist. The critic is my nemesis”
When one day you feel charitable enough to walk around stark naked or undress and stand on a dais, curious eyes will obviously probe every inch of you…from the colour of your skin to the size of your hair follicles. Viewers will be entitled to their scrutiny on how skinny your legs are, how eye ‘scorchingly’ light your skin is, how well they would have a better view with you standing on a different angle. The eye is an opinionated sense. The same way, when you decide to share your works, either in a book, a blog or a newspaper, take that as undressing in front of a crowd. In this crowd, some will jeer you down; others will gladly feed their eyes. An eye’s opinion is relative.
I have over time toyed around with the idea of reviewing blogs…wondering when someone is going to start doing so, seeing as the content in most of the blogs I read from link to link are implausibly well written and reviewable. I have also wondered how ready many writers are to have their works passed through the eyes of a critic. I sold the idea of blog reviews to Michael who does the reviews here on Thursdays. Wouldn’t it be nice to have blogs reviewed ? In the spirit of embracing the unpublished writer.
However, I do not know how many of us are ready to have someone critic their work. The last time I questioned someone’s writing, I was labelled a hater. It made me feel like I was in a hip-hop- East-Coast-West-Coast kind of battle. I was simply appreciating art in a constructive way. I like it when people are honest with my writing. I love knowing what the reader felt…without sugarcoating it…no adjustments, just give it to me as you felt it. I actually tend to look forward to a reader who will disagree with my work. That always stimulates good discussion and opens my eyes, whether I agree or not.
I know a writer’s ego is a big thing and once scarred, it can cause great damage to the hand that holds the pen. Still, aren’t we taking a risk when writing in the first place? Your words are your nakedness. You putting it up there places you in focus. You should therefore not expect people to tell you what you want to hear. People will say spiteful things about your writing. They will scar your ego to irredeemable levels. They will trash it and not give a reason. Your poetry sucks…so do you. I slept all through. Some will go beyond critiquing the writing and start criticising you. Others will fly by it quickly as if they have somewhere else more important they need to be. Amazing. Good. Loved it. Still, at least someone took time and said something…better still; at least someone is reading your work. The best of them all will take time to read your work critically. They will agree or disagree with your style of writing or the opinion you hold in it and they will go ahead and give you a reason for it.
All these readers are important. They are what makes you grow. My friend Sichangi says they are fuel for tomorrow. All one needs to do is separate the chaff from the rest. I say Listen to them all. It is your writing, so at the end of the day, you decide what is of essence and what is bad for your writer’s ego. However, do not be obsessed with the ever so positive critic. Leave that space for your mother. She is the only one who will tell you that you look smart even when you are covered in layers of mud. Do not just run after someone who makes you feel good about your writing. Friends and family will always do that. So step outside your circle and let the harsh world see your nakedness. You are an artist. The critic is not your nemesis.