When you ask someone to evaluate your artistic production (say a book) and you know they skimmed it and didn’t finish but yet they are evaluating it with universal rhetorical feedback that could apply to any text, how do you say to them that you know they didn’t spend quality time with the work and that their feedback is merely a sudden rush to complete what feel they had promised to read a while back?
I have experienced this situation with several colleagues and friends over the years, and it shocks me that they know I am a careful reader yet they read my own work and provide positive and negative universal criticism that isn’t supported with any textual evidence.
It also surprises me that people know I try to think outside the box and write outside narrative frameworks, yet they expect to speed-read my work as if my work follows a predictable template. Not seeing the template they image the work should have, their bury their feedback into universal language that points to no textual specifics. Indeed, many of the well-known writers of our time talked about encountering this very experience from loved ones and colleagues who they held in high regards.
That it has happened to me repeatedly, I think it important to share it here to encourage emerging artists like myself to stand your ground against careless evaluations of your work. Seriously, real friends should not do this to others! Too many artists have been destroyed by the feedback of colleagues and friends who they thought cared about their future.
Artists, know your work. And be opened to criticism, and encourage your evaluators to be frank, rough, and honest with you, but beware of criticism that only points out negatives but do not point to the positives! That is not a skilled and effective critic. And if critics cannot substantiate their critiques—both good and back—with textual evidence, don’t accept their feedback. Obviously, they are insulting your intelligence. Also, be very confident about your production especially if you have put very hard work into it, and others have already pointed out its strengths and value.
I know–I know–I still haven’t answered my own question: what do I say to these sorts of critics who evaluate the work without reading it? I usually say thank you to everyone who evaluates my work. I never ever challenge anyone on any points offered because nobody had signed up for an argument; they had merely volunteered to read a work. Furthermore, I, too, don’t like people fighting me when I am providing feedback to their work. So my answer is that, I don’t have an answer, I am still thinking about it.
But, friends and colleagues, do not hurt your friends by treating their work carelessly. If you can’t spend quality time with the work of an artist who you know has a reputation of producing thoughtful work, don’t spend anytime with it at all. Don’t rush the work and kill the author! Usually, such an author knows you didn’t read the work, but she won’t tell you, because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings though you unintentionally hurt hers.