Meditations On The 5 Types Of Criticism And How To Deal With Them

Deal With CriticismCriticisms are the naturally inevitable judgmental synapses that fire upon any of whom would create, by any of whom would behold; therein, criticism may be an artist’s worst fear, but is it not the artist’s desire, duty, and mission to create for the sake of exhibition, for what is art without someone to behold it?

 Alas, it is a futile undertaking for any maestro to attempt the circumvention of criticism in the composition of their masterpiece, for it, in all forms, is unavoidable; perfection being subjective, the perfection that an artist should strive to attain is not a perfect piece immune to the possibility

Deal With Criticism
…and even then, you could be criticized for not being, saying, or doing anything when you could have.

of criticism, but the power of masterful selection: to be criticized for what one may choose to be criticized for, and thus to be praised for what one would choose to be praised for.

In far simpler English: it doesn’t matter what you do; criticism is a natural aspect of anyone who would behold any form of art, whether it be writing, a painting, a movie, etc. Trying to avert criticism is useless. Instead, what an artist should strive to master is the ability to control what they’re criticized for, by understanding the psychological viewpoints of every demographic group that would witness their work.

Understand The Psychology Of Each Demographic Audience

virtuoso of any discipline, be it the art of writing or of jazz, is one who understands the nature of the beast that forms the vox populi; by employing such wisdom, the understanding of each demographic group’s viewpoints, one can forge and don the psychological armor necessary to prevent being ripped apart by its claws, before a brush, pencil, fist, key, string, etc. is even touched to begin the construction of the artwork to begin with: winning the psychological battle against critics before it’s even begun.

Since criticism is inevitable, by embracing it (instead of trying to run away from it) by understanding the nature of each demographic audience, you can predict what they’re going to criticize you for before you even begin.

As a small example: I knew ahead of time that Fighting for Redemption may be criticized for its violent and sexually explicit nature. I also figured out ahead of time that feminist audiences would probably criticize it for many of the masculine aspects of the book that are potentially demeaning to women. I realized ahead of time that many with right-wing political worldviews or monotheistic beliefs wouldn’t like or agree with many of the actions or statements that I as a character took or made within the book.

…and the list goes on.

So, using my knowledge of marketing and of the art of writing, I wrote it in a way that addressed my realization of these probable facts accordingly; therein, I wouldn’t market the book to those demographic groups, and if or when I got negative criticism about the book from someone whose words could be used as evidence to psychoanalyze that they belong to any of those groups respectively: their words wouldn’t affect me as a person…because their convictions would have been completely expected and part of the marketing strategy.

Because of this, I was able to psychologically arm myself against any of whom would reprimand it thus; having my artistic vision clear in my mind, I went forward to begin its written production. Anyone who makes remarks against it, no matter how vile their statements may be, will stop, change, and control nothing… for my self-confidence as a writer comes from within and isn’t based on what other people think of my work.Deal With Criticism

The Five Kinds Of Criticism

I believe that there are ultimately five kinds of criticisms:

  1. Informed positive
  2. Informed negative
  3. Biased positive
  4. Biased negative
  5. Silence

Biased opinions, be they negative or positive, should be ignored because both are spawned from perceptual realities devoid of deductive reasoning, lacking objective fact in their foundation; they are nugatory statements that serve no purpose but to purposefully serve as the hot flatulence of those without consideration of hypocrisy, or differing viewpoints.

Examples include: “I love this book because it’s awesome and I’ve been a fan of this author for years!” or, “I hate this book because it’s stupid and homosexuality is just wrong!” are examples of the simplest form of biased opinions. Some may be a bit more complex, but ultimately still lack factual reasoning. They state that they love or hate the writing in question, but without logically articulating why they’ve been a fan for so many years, or why they think homosexuality is “just wrong!”.

An informed opinion, whether negative or positive, retains a sense of omnipotent neutrality in the form of a statement derived from simple observation without embellishment; these should be treasured because they are clearly articulated statements that stand upon the foundation of why, with evidence as the mortar that holds their ideas together. Informed opinions give insight to the artist about whether or not the intended message was or wasn’t correctly portrayed and communicated as intended.

For example: “…it seems that the writer tried to portray a moral lesson against racism, but contradicted himself because of examples a, b, and c, from these pages, because a truly non-racist protagonist would’ve more realistically thought along the lines of d, e, and f because it would only make sense that g, h, and i would hold true—according to its technical definition thusly.

Silence, by far, is the worst kind of criticism in that the artist’s work sparked no reaction at all, as if one were to drop a stone in stagnant water that would mysteriously stir no ripples whatsoever. These are the crickets in the auditorium that replace applause. This is sex without any notion of even arousal—forget orgasm. The writer’s work was too weak to be awarded the honor any criticism at all, and will Deal With Criticismthus be forgotten: the death of an artist’s memetic reward.

A writer should keep both informed opinions and silence as their strongest influential forms of feedback, because they lead to the improvement of their skill, clarity of mind, and educated wisdom from multiple viewpoints that the author may not have hitherto thought of. Informed negative opinions may hurt, but they’re often a writer’s greatest teachers.

Be Comfortable With Who You Are

In order to conquer the aspersions of critics, an artist (be they a writer, painter, musician, etc.) must first find and conquer themselves from within, finding peace in both the positive and negative aspects of who they are from the different viewpoints of whomever may witness them. A writer seeks to withdraw their vision from within and present it as a statement to the world; therefore, if art is the expressed result of one’s personal journey to and within their own heart and subconscious mind, then it is from within that the true war against critics is fought.

Deal With Criticism
Artist: Takehiko Inoue

Any artist who puts their heart and soul into their work would understandably be offended by robust opprobrium; however, they must understand that anyone who invests the time and/or money needed in order to read any writer’s material is entitled to their opinion, regardless of whether it’s positive or not.

The wounds inflicted upon the writer who pays attention to ad hominem attacks are psychological and emotional, causing them to doubt themselves, to smother the flames of their own creative spirit. Uncaring folk with spiteful words of abrasion can weigh upon the mind like an anvil atop a wooden board, hoping for that wooden board to break.

“Why do you think Steve Jobs was paranoid throughout his career? …because people made him that way. I do not believe that geniuses are crazy initially. I think that because people misunderstand them, that because the genius’s thinking and methodology are so far beyond them that they call them crazy or criticize them because that’s the only thing they can do instead of making their own lives great. If you constantly call a child a ‘bad kid’, that kid usually winds up doing bad things, but not because the kid was actually bad—he merely did what was imprinted upon his mind to do by those who called him a bad kid. Geniuses go crazy or become very introverted and eccentric because other people who can’t fathom them make them that way.” –Karina Dineva

Throughout the journey of my own self-mastery, and with it, my mastery as a writer: my own writing has been attacked in a myriad of ways by multiple people; it’s been called trash, kindle for the fire, untrue, among a wide spectrum of negative names, I, myself, have been called crazy, delusional, egomaniacal, that I should change my career, etc. And I, being wounded thus, have doubted myself; I know what it’s like to smother the flames of my own creative spirit; I know what it’s like to become reclusive; I know what it’s like to be mocked by my own biological mother and exiled by my own biological family, to struggle penniless in the streets, to flee my own home country, to drop off of the face of the earth and live under a pseudonym for a while; I know what it’s like to want to commit suicide because of all this, to just end it all because of what mean and small-minded commoners say, people who are hypocritically judgmental by not being creators themselves, to judge from the cozy comfort of not being judged in return, people still entitled to their opinion, people who claim to hate my work but still read it anyway—often in deeper detail that I even would have—which technically makes them, counter-intuitively—my truest fans. Who else invest so much attention into me or what I’ve written, negative or not?

I’m fully and well versed in criticism…

Deal With Criticism

…and I also know what it’s like to overcome it, if even in the smallest of ways, to keep going for the sake of a greater good that sometimes only I believed in. The truth is, it takes unbelievable courage, self-discipline, and inner strength to live the lives that we genuinely want to live, to say (in my case: to write) the things that are truly within our hearts, to dream big, and to persevere no matter how many times we may fall or fail, to truly believe in life—that there are no limits but those within our own minds, and that our strife is not for nothing, to have faith in the value of our own lives even if we never live to personally see it from the viewpoint of the bird’s eye. It takes incredible integrity of character and rectitude to take the red pill and to stay true to that path, regardless of what sufferings the decisions of the principles of that path would dictate us to make, not to fall back in line when the going gets tough, or when the entire world seems to doubt, scrutinize, mock, and abandon you.

Deal With CriticismWe become the masters of our own realities by facing ourselves in our own minds, admitting the truth of ourselves to ourselves, and understanding that there is no actual box but what others create for us by the projections of their own expectations, desires, envies, and limitations of self. By becoming our own masters, comfortable in our own skin, by taking responsibility for our own lives and the decisions we make, and understanding that the ups and downs of life are not only inevitable but part of what makes our stories great, we free ourselves to do the extraordinary, become the extraordinary, and therein: to be happy with who we are, the lives that we lead, and the art that we create…even if we’re not rich.

In this, the complete mastery of any art-form and the mastery of the self are one and the sameand as we attain it, simultaneously, those who criticize us and attack our personas begin to matter less and less, their voices fading away evanescently into faint whispers of nothingness that have no bearing on our realities, capabilities, or the people who choose to truly matter in our lives.

How has criticism affected you in your past? How did you deal with it? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Michael Norton
Michael is the bestselling author of Fighting For Redemption, as well as an award-winning essayist, Internet marketing strategist, and mechanical engineer.

Visit his personal blog at NortonsMind.com.
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