The gift of criticism

Support is great.  If someone is feeling down, needs reassurance, is worried, wants advice, etc. etc. then this community does a brilliant job of responding to that need.

I often wonder, though, if support is sometimes given that does more harm than good.

Let’s say someone posts about some discipline he or she is receiving.  Commenters flock with criticism, judgment, and disparaging remarks about the discipline and both parties involved in the relationship.

It’s easy to see how this can be harmful, right?  We can’t know everything that is going on, and so to jump to conclusions can hurt what that couple is trying to achieve.  Accusations can get emotional quite quickly.

However, sometimes I wonder if we can be too quick to shut down criticism.  Sure, people can say things thoughtlessly.  Many do.  But does that always mean what they say has no validity?

The criticism that makes me the most angry/hurt/upset is usually the criticism that touches on something I am secretly most concerned about.  If someone accused me of being an 80-year-old man pretending to be Ana, I’d laugh.  If someone accused me of being a vanilla person just pretending to write about spanking in order to get attention, I’d laugh too.

But if someone accused me of writing sick stories that showed an unhealthy relationship?  I’d be upset.  I worry about that, too.

I might instead think about how the dynamic of dominance and submission has a lot of layers and very easily can be used for harm as well as good.

Or how the exact behavior in a male dominant is perceived differently that in a female dominant.  How a woman who is dominant is generally portrayed as a sexual object even if she is, in name, dominating.

How strong women are viewed as threatening.

Then I might go back to my writing and say, “Wow, I never thought about all of this before.”

It would give a new layer to my understanding.

All because of a criticism.
What gifts have you received from criticism?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24 thoughts on “The gift of criticism

  1. pao says:

    That’s an interesting POV.. although it feels almost like a chauvinistic male’s view (forgive me for assuming). Hmm, I suppose in the F/F world there’s no need for comparison to the the other sex hence the scope of perception is narrowed down to just F/F? But wow, great that it opened up a whole new level of understanding there.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Wow, it is amazing to read how different these comments are and how each person took something different from the post. And since the F/F world is so microscopic in the big picture, well…these considerations do matter.

      Like

      • pao says:

        I think i was just trying to see where this critic is coming from.. I think the bit about how dominant women are threatening caught my eye. Sorry, i probably went off topic. Yes, i suppose everything is relative to another and people will start comparing and that could change communities.

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        • Ana says:

          Dominant women are *always* threatening. No, no…nothing about going off-topic. You’re one of the few commenters coming from an F/F angle, so of course you pick up on that. The women-can’t-be-strong thing is a topic for another day and a blog post of its own!!

          Like

  2. Abel says:

    “If someone accused me of writing sick stories”, I’d probably ask what they were doing on my site in the first place. I’d probably wonder how they’d feel if I told them *their* fantasies were *sick* – rather than just different to my own. And I’d no doubt remind myself that my stories are fiction, not things I’d want to do (or have happen) in real-life. Often the critic is the one most deserving of criticism!

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    • Ana says:

      Hm, next time I will be more careful in picking my example! That was my inner fear rather than something people have said to me, but I know that it happens. I am worried I will receive those comments about Kat and Natalie.

      But yes, criticism goes both ways!

      Like

      • Abel says:

        I’ve had comments along those lines from readers a couple of times recently. Then again, I guess over the years I’ve been posting stories, I’ve been very lucky to generally only attract comments from kinder readers who either like what I’ve written or who make useful suggestions!

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        • Ana says:

          True enough! Though I think if you put more Shakespeare in your stories everyone would be happy. The silly ones wouldn’t bother to read then…for sure!

          Like

  3. Sue Lyndon says:

    If you write spanking fiction, whether it’s F/F, F/M, M/F, whatever combination, you’ll eventually come across someone who says it’s sick and something must be wrong with you for wanting to write these kind of stories. I’ve seen reviews like this on Amazon and other places. It always confounds me why someone who obviously doesn’t want to read about disciplinary spankings would purchase that genre of book in the first place, but it happens. And it’s hard not to take it personally. All relationships (real life and fictional) can have their unhealthy moments, but it’s how you get through them and how both people come out in the end that matters. And if discipline is a part of that relationship, it’s an easy thing to focus on and criticize, unfortunately. I wouldn’t worry about these kinds of criticism though, ever. How engaging your stories are, how likeable your characters are, and how well your writing flows – these are the more important things to focus on and what I pay attention to in a criticism. 🙂

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Right, it’s these kinds of reviews that scare me. I would almost rather that the reviews say I’m a bad writer than say the relationship I depict is sick and twisted.

      It is always a recipe for failure when we focus on what others might say about our work, isn’t it? I am starting to understand why people say that a writer’s first book is the easiest. Now when I am writing, I can’t help thinking, “Is this publishable? Will people like it? Will it sell?” instead of “Does this move me so much that I would get out of my warm and cozy bed to hammer on my keyboard for hours?”

      Great thoughts.

      Like

  4. PK says:

    I think the criticism that helps me the most is when my readers get on my back for criticizing Nick. I write about him a lot – most of it is very good, he’s a peach. When I forget this and start complaining about the little things that drive me nuts, my readers will usually call me on it and I have to stop and think about the big picture.

    Hugs,
    PK

    Like

    • Ana says:

      You’ve hit exactly what I was trying to get at…with good, thoughtful criticism we can be shown things we don’t realize. If we consistently come across in a certain way, then that does have validity. It’s not easy to hear, but sometimes the most messed-up people are the ones no one has been willing to talk to honestly.

      Hugs back.

      P.S. Not telling everything about a run-in with the law IS dishonest. Just saying. 😉

      Like

  5. Bas says:

    I absolutely hate criticism. Cannot stand it. Makes me feel I have failed.
    And of course, criticism at the weak points hurts the most. Criticism on those points that I have been thinking about a lot.
    I have always tried to avoid criticism by not saying things thoughtlessly. By researching and by knowing what I’m talking about.
    Of course I had little success, criticism will always be there.
    And because of that, I can say that everything I know is caused by criticism.
    Still hate it though.

    On the other subject: I think it is part of your job to lift the general picture of the female dominant above the level of the short black leather skirts, the leather bras and the sharp high heels, whose only purpose is to get the sub to sexually serve her. That picture is both threatening and sexual. Both in F/F as in F/M settings.
    We have only very few portraits of a female dominant in ordinary day to day life who cares for the sub and tries to lead the sub, as we do have with many male dominants.
    I wish you luck with this job, it won’t be easy.
    Alright, criticize me!

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I know. Fear of criticism can make us work really hard and achieve great things. It can also make us stop working. (Cue pros.)

      I couldn’t agree with you more about the dominant female. I’d love to see, just as you do, more pictures of women who spank for eating their ice cream. There are many variations of male domination but precious few of female.

      *hugs*

      I tried very hard to find something to criticize, but I’m afraid next time you’ll have to give me something to criticize first.

      Like

  6. Celeste Jones says:

    Great topic, Ana. I agree that often when criticism bugs me the most is when I think there might be a kernel of truth in it and once I get over my initial indignation, I try to see if they might be a tiny bit right.

    I’ve been stuck in my writing lately. I have three partial stories that I’m sure are horrible and blah, blah, blah (at least one of them might actually be unworthy of saving) but when I get stuck it is often because I am busy thinking “this isn’t as good as the last one” or “that book I read by so-and-so is so much better”. It’s almost like I’m watching myself write and then commenting on it. That’s never successful.

    Good, maybe I can get something done now.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      It is hard to focus! It’s hard to stay inside, too. I mean inside our head rather than trying to poke into everyone else’s head and imagine how they will respond to what we write.

      I hope that you get writing done! 😀 Actually, I hope *I* get writing done, too. 😛

      Like

  7. Minelle says:

    I think that it is hard to hear the truth since we are very vulnerable when we post about our lives. I try very hard to go with the intention of a person
    rather than how I may emotionally see the comment. We also may over think things having entire conversations in our head without the other person being remotely aware of what is going on. That is why ‘thoughtful criticism’ is important. After all isn’t that what growth and learning is all about.

    Oh and Ana……Write.

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    • Ana says:

      It is, certainly. Very important. Sometimes there *is* that line when you see something so concerning you have to speak up. Other times it’s not so easy.

      I will. I will even not pretend I can take it literally.

      Like

  8. Cara Bristol says:

    As you say, when criticism hits at our insecurities, it hurts the most. And as writers, we put ourselves out there, knowing that our work will be criticized. The trick is to remain open to truth, while guarding against being hurt by every negative comment.

    One has to know one’s audience and write for that audience. There are many people who will never approve of spanking and will see it as sick and twisted no matter what. That isn’t any different from people who categorically diss romance, or sci fi, or fantasy novels. Look at any book you love, and you’ll see 1 star reviews.

    I do consider review criticisms and have made some changes in my writing as a result. What really counts to me aren’t the negative reviews, but the people who LIKE a book, but point out the “flaws.” Those I consider very seriously.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      That’s a great point about evaluating the source of the criticism. Someone who hates our work is probably the wrong type of person to persuade to like our work after all. What I don’t like, though, is when someone just listens to yes-people. When you surround yourself with people who mimic what you think and say, you lose the opportunity to learn. Some of my best learning has come from someone who gave me criticism. But it can go the other extreme in being too responsive and then ping-ponging from one “identity” to another. (Struggling very hard not to make any political references…)

      Yeah. We need to know our audience and write for it..but at the same time I think we need to try to expand that audience.

      Like

  9. Lillie says:

    Sometimes I can be so sensitive to criticism that I see it where it doesn’t exist and yes, sugar coat things I think should be said – to spare the feelings of someone.
    We are raised to believe unless we have something good to say, we should be quiet, but that is not always the greatest kindness.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Yes, the tricky thing about not listening to criticism is that we shut off opportunities to learn about ourselves and to grow. The danger is that we may listen so much that we lose confidence…and usually it’s a mixture of the two. We’re so afraid the criticism is correct that we fall to take it constructively.

      Like

  10. Saoirse says:

    I’ve found the more intense my reaction to criticism the more I need to pay attention. I don’t like criticism. Who does? But sometimes one has to be a grown up and consider the possibilities. Otherwise, one risks making a Spectacle of Oneself. 🙂 Recently a grumpy 80 year old man pretending to be a woman suggested it wasn’t polite of me to bring 843 animals into my house without consulting my partner. This made me sweat bullets but I had to admit: He/She was correct… Women with power are always threatening to some portions of society. I have always insisted those threatened possess very small penises….

    Like

    • Ana says:

      *giggle* And just what is wrong with grumpy 80-year-old men, m’dear? By the way, speak up. I can’t hear you. 80 is the new 60. I am sure that it was a crotchety old man who just needed a good spanking. 😉

      What saddens me is when it is women who are threatened by women in power.

      Like

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