Why I say we should sweetly, fervently, gleefully and quite thoroughly screw the critics..

I’ve been looking for inspiration as I am struggling with my writing – or rather, my ego, which is what I always run up against. I get stuck in and the voices start up and they keep coming until they form a big fat lump. So now I am stuck and the internet, full of writers, can surely offer some support?

Instead I found criticism and stock tick lists of what you should do, which still all amount to what you shouldn’t do. And they are always the same. Get rid of the adverbs, count your it’s and your was’s and your that’s…yada yada yada. I’m pretty sure you have heard it all before. And I got angry. Like stamp my little feet, rant at the birds, pissed.

I’m really, really, really tired of this. The whole world knows exactly how to write the perfect novel. The agents, the publishers, the self publishers, the readers and starter outers, the bloggers and tweeters. So why is no one writing it?

Because it is the easiest thing in the world to tear a book down. Creating one is an altogether harder task. Creating one someone can’t tear apart – impossible.

One of these individuals, who so kindly sought to put us all right, managed to hit on my pet peeve. He translated literally. I heard a writer snap at fellow scribe once, ‘rocks cannot be merciless’. My immediate thought, ‘tell that to Mary’. Blasphemous little sod that I am. But can you imagine a world in which words are translated literally? That’s not italics, I’m just shuddering as I type. I would have to start a revolution. Maybe I am..

I know there is a potential hypocrisy here – I write a blog on writing. I have been vocal about what I don’t like, what I would like to see more of.

This is not a tirade against better writing. This is not a tirade against critical thought. I’ve said it before, will say it again, question everything, absorb everything; think, feel, live it from every perspective you can.

This is a tirade against poorly thought out criticism. This is a tirade against every two bit over-inflated ego on the web who thinks they can recycle someone else’s words and set themselves up as an expert. I refuse to believe that ANY of these individuals ever sat down with their favourite King, Koontz or Grisham before flinging it in despair across the room, dropping head into hands and moaning, ‘I just can’t take any more adverbs’.

More than anything though this is a tirade against hate. Putting yourself out there is hard. Too hard maybe for me. I am so envious of those who have given it a shot, but I wonder how many more are like me? I’ve been a victim of bullying. I’ve seen tin pot hitlers abuse their power in all sort of places, the office, relationships, even on the internet. The guy yelling obscenities and threatening dark deeds with power tools is easy to spot and tends to take the limelight. True bullying is insidious, self-righteous and persistent. It grinds you down and it always has an excuse, plausible, making you question your own sanity. Perhaps the greatest legacy of my own experience is I doubt everything.

I’m not saying what we are seeing is true bullying, but it has a distinct odour I recognise. The same message hammered over and over again, the derision and disgust aimed at those who dare stray, the way so many quickly fall in line, eager to make it clear that of course the naysayers are right, they understand, they wouldn’t dare disagree. It’s not a pleasant odour.

That word right above sums it up more than any other, naysayers. These people aren’t even trying to offer constructive help. They want originality from stock rules? They want voice from a severely limited vocabulary? They want you to ignore every writer, every work of art that has held you entranced and every classic that is loved long after its author has passed and, instead, listen to them. They have English Lit degrees and an internet connection. Many just the latter.

How many ideas have been lost for fear they were too out there? How many writers have put their manuscripts back in the bottom drawer, convinced that inspired by Peter Pan, no one will take their tale of magic woven into reality seriously? And how will we ever know what we lost? It’s been said before that those with the greatest talent and skill are the ones who question themselves the most. I don’t know if that’s true, but if we continue to create this sneering environment we will likely never find out.

There is so much we can learn from one another. Think of the Bloomsbury lot. Writers across continents reaching out to one another should create the most exciting discourse history has ever known. Instead we’re all counting our adverbs. What would Virginia Woolf say?

We can rewrite the world. We can write pulpy erotic vampire nonsense and we can do it entirely in adverbs.. WE CAN…. Now the only thing any of us has to do is decide what we want to stick at the end of that sentence.


6 thoughts on “Why I say we should sweetly, fervently, gleefully and quite thoroughly screw the critics..

  1. Stephen King says don’t use adverbs. Stephen King uses adverbs. Stephen King says don’t use dialogue tags. Stephen King uses dialogue tags. You can even use exclamation points! (in dialogue only imho) Do what you want and make the best book you can. And I recommend staying off forums for writers.

      1. which one did you belong to? There were really only self-pubbers where I was – though viciousness still triumphed. It was just directed at everyone who dared disagree.


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