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Getting Comfy With Critique - Part 2

A follow up to my previous piece about critique.

By L.C. SchäferPublished 15 days ago 3 min read
Getting Comfy With Critique - Part 2
Photo by Graham Holtshausen on Unsplash

Recently I wrote about the lack of critique here on Vocal. It's a double edged sword - in some ways wonderful, and refreshing compared to other places. On the other hand, potentially stifling for some and possibly an untapped resource that could benefit us all. Here it is if you want to read it:

I'm so glad I wrote it, because it's outstripped by the insightful and thought-provoking comments that follow it. I recommend you read those. This piece is an answer to those comments.

The conversations that have sprung from it have helped me arrange my thoughts more coherently. Now I've got several pieces that have been sitting in my Drafts for a long time pretty much ready to go. So, to those who have engaged so meaningfully: THANK YOU! To those who are bonkers enough to subscribe to me: I might submit them in fairly quick succession - sorry about that! I normally prefer to stagger them a bit more. (I promise I won't be spamming your notifications for days!)

Here we go - my response to what I think were the best points raised in the comments on my other piece, one by one:

i) This platform isn't always a supportive one

When I said, "comments are always kind and encouraging" I completely ignored the people who feel they've been on the receiving end of harsh treatment. Either someone has commented on their stories harshly, or they've left a comment and the person has lashed out.

It does happen. I maintain that it is in the minority compared to the supportive engagement - but this got me thinking. Why is that?

Is it because the people dishing out harsh treatment are a vanishing minority, or because they don't act out often? Or is it because they've successfully shut other people down? Are people just pretending to be nice? Are some repressing any commentary that could be perceived as negative, and it's coming out elsewhere?

ii) Not everyone wants critique

Some would say: if you put your work out there in public, you should expect critique. There's some truth to that.

Still, I've got stuff I know is not my best effort, and I appreciate your grace in ignoring it rather than rubbing my face in it. I've got stories that are my babies - they mean a great deal to me, and I appreciate other people going easy on them. Some people are not interested in actively honing their writing to get better - they just write for the fun of it, for joy, for self-expression. They don't need to be told what's wrong with it. That took me a while to wrap my head around.

iii) Comments are public

The person leaving a comment isn't sure whether the writer wants that type of feedback on their writing, certainly not publicly.

Take something simple like a typo. Alexander and I agreed that if we've made a mistake, please tell us so we can fix it! But others don't want attention drawn to that mistake.

I likened it to having loo paper stuck to the back of your trousers. For goodness sake tell me! Don't let me walk around oblivious! But there are some who would (quite rightly) argue that if someone does have errant loo paper caught on the back of their clothes, you would give them a nudge and say so quietly. You wouldn't grab a megaphone and stand on a table yelling, "OY! SUSAN! YOU'VE GOT ARSE-WIPE ON THE BACK OF YOUR SKIRT, LUV!"

I've got some suggestions for Vocal up my sleeve with these thoughts in mind, but that's for another post.

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Thank you for reading!

As always, I appreciate you leaving a comment so I can easily reciprocate.


About the Creator

L.C. Schäfer

Flexing the writing muscle.

Never so naked as I am on a page. Subscribe for "nudes".

I'm also Twitter if you'd like to connect elsewhere.

I value feedback, and reciprocate reads and comments.

Also writing under the name S.E. Holz

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Comments (13)

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  • Scott Christenson9 days ago

    All good advice. I try to keep point 2 in mind, when my slightly spectrum mind wants to just logically list out everything i’d like to point out. On the other side, it might be am idea if positive commentators could point out what they like about other peoples work instead of just saying everything is totally amazing.

  • Thavien Yliaster12 days ago

    i) You're right about how this platform isn't always supportive. Sometimes even the people themselves will take up arms against one another with their own words, in a sense they try attacking a person through their published work. One of the worst things I've seen on here is not just false niceness, but a person using multiple accounts to leave negative comments on other peoples' published articles and even to reply to other people. Even if You don't know if they control that account, the vernacular is so similar it's uncanny. ii) You make a fair point about not wanting critique. Moreover, I think people don't want to made an example out of. I got a comment on a poem of mine saying that it should have a trigger, content, or age restrictive warning. My poem was published well before Donna Renee's article about content warnings. I agree that some pieces of work do need content warnings. I also think that most people know how to read between the lines and know when not read something that isn't going to be their cup of tea. In the end, I probably overreacted. Yeah, I definitely did. Still, I think people are too trigger finger happy when it comes to wanting to label things that even though they might enjoy, that they don't necessarily agree with. I too, have works that are precious to me, yet I feel that if I stifle feedback I'm going to subconsciously block any genuine feedback that somebody wants to give me. I'd hate to do that. iii) When it comes to mentioning typos, I say that if You don't have any other way to communicate with the author then yes a comment suffices. I get not yelling about it, and that some people like to be discreet. However, some people think that discretion means that they get to message You directly if they find some form or/of way. I'mma be honest, "If I don't know You, don't think You can get comfy with me like that. We can deal with it publicly, especially if it's a public thing." Still, that doesn't mean that I'd go off on a person's typo. Plus, if I have a typo, please point it out. It's not an, "Let's make a big scene about it." It's more of an "Hey, You got this typo here on this line." However, when You try to help some people with their typos, even in private, they'll take it as an assault. It's like, "Bruh, chillax. Choose to be grateful and not hateful." In most scenarios though, it's not the typo that set them off, they probably got something else going on in their lives. The arse-wipe bit was hilarious. Hopefully it was just tp and not dirty tp.

  • Mackenzie Davis14 days ago

    I have thought about the potential of people pretending to be nice. I don't like lingering on it, though, because I've made some genuine connections to people, and it would completely undo my sense of people to assume fakeness. It makes more sense that people misunderstand comments because of age differences and tone in communicating over text. I haven't come across people being intentionally rude right off the bat; only in response, which leads me back to the misunderstanding theory. But instead of clarifying or ignoring in favor of thinking the best of people, they lash out and in turns into a drama and burned bridges. Not good. I like the philosophy of being kind, genuinely kind, and giving people the benefit of the doubt if they make some bigger mistakes than simple typos. But I do like the notion of pointing out typos; however, I hesitate to do it when I don't know the author at all or at least not very well. Then it can seem rude, I think. A private comment for that would be helpful, as you suggested in the TS article. Loo paper, indeed. I'm inclined to think that the majority of us feel we are in the same boat with self-esteem and wanting to support each other. So, when it comes to commenting some kind of feedback that might embarrass the author, we generally hold back, but if we decide to go for it, I think the rest of the community can easily drop it off their radar, not judge the author or the commenter too harshly. So, it really just comes down to the perceived relationship between commenter and author, I think, and making a judgement call on if the feedback is worth giving. This was a great summary and bouncing off point for further discussion, L.C.! Loving that you're opening these questions up. We need to discuss it.


  • Cathy holmes15 days ago

    Bahahaha. That last part.

  • Nice distillation--& no, I didn't find any typos, lol. That last one about comments being public is good to remember. On occasion I've wondered if someone commenting (including me), wanted others to see that side of them/me. Sometimes I've gone back & deleted a comment I've made because of it.

  • Brin J.15 days ago

    In your last article, I didn’t even have the thought to share that, while I’ve been careful about leaving criticism, I like receiving it. Mom says it’s a character flaw of mine, focusing too much on pleasing others and being so harsh on myself. But I know I can’t grow as a writer without direction. I feel lost all the time. Some times I post stories on here and they never get read, and I grow self-conscious. I’m honestly not on Vocal to earn a place on Top Story or to win a Challenge, those are just bonuses. I joined to strengthen my writing skills. And for the most part, I feel like I have. “The Crow’s Calling Card” was perhaps the best work I’ve ever posted to Vocal, but if you look back to my first submission ever- “The Owl’s Call” you’ll see a huge difference and A-LOT of progress. I’m proud. And I know without Vocal, I wouldn’t have produced a steampunk mystery story set in the Industrial Age. Lol. Wow, I really went off track here. What I’m trying to say is I’d like to receive honest criticism, too. 🤗

  • Hannah Moore15 days ago

    All valid points, indeed. Maybe we could mark pieces as open for critique in done way.

  • Rachel Deeming15 days ago

    Nice summary. And I mean that. It's been good to engage on this.

  • Rene Peters15 days ago

    I'm happy I haven't had a problem with being critiqued on my pieces yet. I want to get better but I mentally need encouragement because my self-esteem is so bad.

  • Mohammed Darasi15 days ago

    Nice follow up, and looking forward to the barrage of notifications from you 🤣 (I'll try to read as many as I can)

  • Alexander McEvoy15 days ago

    I feel special now to have been shouted out 😇 I agree with everything you’ve said, some people want critique, others don’t, it’s a very tough line to walk. And the difficulty with having everything out in the open is that, as you say, it could be akin to being loudly embarrassed in public. Certainly a very difficult situation for all concerned. It astounds me that some people wake up and choose violence. Like, it’s mad isn’t it? People put their heart and soul into what they write ✍️ and then share it with us, and there are persons who are dicks about it. Mental. Love hearing your thoughts 😇

  • I think when I first started on Vocal, I was very anxious about it so I don't think I could have handled anything other the encouragement. But now I am focused on improving at the craft and trying to write at least something everyday so i don't fall into the habit of not writing. It would be really good if perhaps there was a community for 'feedback' and if you were ready and willing to hear criticism, you could post there to show you were up for it. There are some thing I would very much appreciate feedback on but others I would rather not, particulalry things I've written for 'confessions' where I haven't thought to much about the crafting...I hope that makes sense? A really interesting piece that made me really think about why I am here (On Vocal) and what I hope to gain and give from/with the experience 🤍🤍🤍

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