Why Strangers Make Better Critics Compared to Family

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

When I first started writing creative pieces years ago, I was excited to have someone in the family read them. It’s not necessarily that I wanted a critique of my work, but more of the ego boost. Most of the time, friends and family are going to tell you what you want to hear regarding the story. Unfortunately, this can often lead to issues trusting the work. I’m not saying that family can’t be good critics. However, it will influence their judgement.

The Purpose of Critics

A critic isn’t someone who merely pokes holes in a project for the sole purpose of making people feel bad. A true critique will have a constructional tone behind it while clearly defining why the piece is good or bad. Don’t confuse a critic with a troll…they are completely different.

The Personal Element

WorkFromHomeKeep in mind that not all negative critiques mean there is something wrong with your writing. You’re not going to make everyone happy with any project you create. These individuals use their personal experiences to justify their views of any given project. Their own history, tastes and education will directly affect how they approach your work.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore their advice, however. You can learn quite a bit from critics and the advice they provide. Just don’t take everything they say as absolute truth. How often did you watch a movie that critics hated but you loved?
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Improving Your Abilities

Critics can actually be very helpful when you want to fine-tune your writing skills. By analyzing what others say about your work, you can discover a great deal about what you can do to make it better. The hardest part is not to take offense to what people say.

Sure, you’ll have the occasional troll who has nothing better to do with his or her time. But you need to rise against that nonsense.

Strangers Make the Best Critics

It can be exciting when you finally complete what you believe to be the perfect manuscript. You spend hours upon hours perfecting the work and now it’s time for someone to read it. Who is the first person you ask? A lot of people will immediately think of friends, family or lovers.

That’s good for an ego boost, but it really may not be the best solution to tell if a piece is good or not.

Empathy of Friends and Family

Followers SnippetIt can be difficult to get an honest opinion from friends and family. It’s not because they don’t know what they’re doing from a critique standpoint. It’s because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. This empathy is what’s going to affect their judgement.

Now, not all family members and friends will consciously try to make you feel good about your work. However, it will play a role in how they view your material. Not everyone can separate themselves from emotions when it comes to being unbiased. It’s not their fault. It’s simply how humans are wired.

Most humans will go out of their way to avoid hurting the ones they care about. Even when they have permission from the other party, there is still a part of the soul that is damaged when they purposely hurt someone. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s what makes us human.

Your Trust in a Friend or Family Member

Because you know those closest to you won’t hurt you on purpose, there will always be that sense of doubt whether you can trust their opinion or not. This is especially true if you have a hard time taking compliments like I do. In the back of my mind, I always assume that friends and family are just telling me what I want to hear because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Why is it so hard to accept compliments for many of us? Probably because we don’t hear it enough in the outside world and therefore don’t fully believe it when someone in our families say, “but you’re wonderful.” That’s part of a self-esteem and confidence issue that I really don’t have time to get into today. But in our minds, we know our families want us to feel good about ourselves. So it becomes difficult to trust in our abilities when compared to the outside world.

Unknown Critics Are Less Biased

When someone doesn’t have a stake in you personally, they can provide an impartial opinion of your writing without feeling obligated to be sensitive. Unfortunately, this can be a very sharp double-edge sword.

On one hand, you’ll receive a more reliable critique of your piece. Unknown critics can offer great insight into everything from plots to character development.

On the other hand, you’ll also open yourself up to those who are mean spirited for the sake of being an ass. It’s too bad that the negative aspects are always the most memorable for humans. There are simply not enough praises in the world today. This means you’ll also attract those who only point out the bad points. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to hear what’s right about a story.

What It All Boils Down to Is How You Feel About the Piece

waking up to workCritics are not the end-all-be-all of saying whether a story is good or not. Like I asked earlier, how often did you like a movie that critics hated? It’s the same thing when you’re writing professionally.

Although many critics can offer some amazing advice, it doesn’t mean your work is bad. You’ll never please everyone all the time. It all boils down to how you feel about the work. Does the critique of your piece make sense to you? Do you feel that the writing can stand on its own? That’s all that really matters.

At the end of the day, you’re not trying to impress critics. It’s your target audience that will pay you to write. While it would be nice to get a little flattery once in a while to help build confidence and self-esteem, critics are not the ones you want to seek for it. Take their input as more of a guideline and what you could alter to make the story unfold. But don’t dwell on whether or not someone dislikes the work.

Michael Brockbank
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