An Historical Downpour: Critical Mass Wednesday December 16, 2009, 0 comments

An Historical Downpour is a feature of A Rain of Frogs. It isn’t common, but once in a while I feature something I wrote on a different blog under a penname. Enjoy.

Originally posted as “Critical Mass” at 12:43AM on August 9, 2004.

One of the powers of the Internet, and the one that is most applicable to creative types like artists, designers, writers and musicians, is that it allows us to instantly expose our work to potentially millions of eyeballs (or ear-balls, for the musicos). This is a power that most pre-web artists would have given their left ear for. This massive potential exposure has also revealed a gaping hole in the educations of creative types everywhere while at the same time making it clear that those millions of eyeball aren’t as wonderful as we might have thought.

The hole in creative education I am talking about is the ability to take criticism. I cannot believe the massive number of thin-skinned creative people I meet. As an artist and a designer, I am regularly in discussion with other artists and designers, and find it sometimes difficult to communicate with them. As soon as I point out that this element or that colour, while pretty interesting in their own right, may not be the best solution for the project at hand, the protective walls spring up and a defensive (and intolerant) posture is assumed.

This doesn’t just apply to those in the visual creative fields either. It seems more and more musicians are whiny prima dona personalities that believe they are perfect and above the constructive criticism of others. This more than all other situations is what causes bands to break up. Writers I meet are defensive and arrogant, and often the first to scoff at a suggestion unless it is presented with perfect grammar and punctuation. Even then, they are merely humouring the critic, waiting for them to leave before spouting some haughty and arrogant comment about the decline of literacy in the western world.

Creative types, visual, aural or otherwise, need to get their collective heads out of their collective a$$ and figure it out. Criticism is part of the creative process. It allows us to see and hear things as our audience does, instead of being limited to our own point of perspective. Constructive criticism is more valuable than equipment, and at least as valuable as practice. It’s pure gold.

On the other hand, the masses need to learn to criticize constructively. “WOW! That’s awesome” is a fine comment, but its about as constructive as “That sucks.” Surely if something you see or hear is worth commenting about, it’s worth commenting in a way that may improve it. And this is the downfall of the ‘net when it comes to creative endeavours. It’s easy to spew vitriolic comments while hiding behind the wall of anonymity, but it doesn’t do anything to make the quality of creative works on the Internet any better. In fact, this sort of hostile response is causing artists to eschew the ’net altogether, and seek a place where their thin-skins won’t be punctured.

I’m no great artist. I’m certainly not a great designer. I’m not a great musician and I’m certainly not a good writer, but I am willing to separate the wheat of constructive criticism from the chaff of useless ego-feeding (mine or the critic’s) comments in an attempt to improve.


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