Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, June 10, 2013

Positive and Negative Reviews

Reviews are everywhere these days. Book authors are especially mindful of reviews that are written about their creative productions. We want reviews; we need reviews. We hope they will be positive, but sometimes any review is better than no review at all. Or so I've read...

Yesterday, I was on an art supply site and, while there, I checked out the available artist videos. One by a favorite artist friend of mine had two reviews. The first one--a five star review--was glowing and positive about all the helpful aspects of this video. The other was one of the most negative reviews I've every read. The video is by an experimental water media artist, and the reviewer criticized most everything about the artist's methods of creating art. The resulting one-star review surprised me. I wondered why someone who must be a traditional artist would have ordered this video in the first place and then taken the time to be so critical.

Sometimes people appear to go out of their ways to be critical of others. If they can find a flaw, they will point it out.

That's sad. Especially now when the written word is there forever.

"Looking at the Positive" ©Mary Montague Sikes
With reviews of books and creative work of any kind, look for something positive to say. If there is nothing good to say about a book or a video, perhaps it is best to write nothing. Always try to be fair.

Positive and negative. Smile, don't frown.  Photographs of people who appear happy make me want to meet them. Photographs of bright and cheerful subjects make me happy, too.

My mother used to tell me, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

In days of the Internet, that advice is especially meaningful when it comes to reviews of our creative work. After all, we put our hearts out there for everyone to see.

Maybe we shouldn't...What do you think?




17 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm with your mother. If I don't like a book, I neither finish nor review it.
Not very fair of that person to review that video. Definitely not the target audience.

Amy Sikes said...

Well, since book reviews are my "job", I feel an obligation to write the review, even if it's a negative one. I do always try to find something positive to say, but sometimes, books are just BAD.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Alex, the video review was upsetting since the person writing it shouldn't have ordered it in the first place! Thanks for commenting.

Amy, the video review was especially upsetting. I don't have the heart to write a really bad book review because the author probably thinks it's wonderful. Maybe the next book will be.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I agree, the artist who reviewed the video was wrong. That wasn't even his or her style of art!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Diane, thanks. That was my concern.

Amy Sikes said...

Maybe the next book will be wonderful...IF the author reads and pays attention to critical reviews. Those do serve a crucial role. I'm not talking about just nasty, misguided reviews like the one you reference here. I mean true constructive criticism. I actually have seen authors address my criticisms in following books! One even wrote me to thank me for an honest review. These things lead me to believe that authors DO want to know what can be improved. But I'm talking about constructive criticism, which often seems lacking in negative reviews.

I will say that if I can't think of a single positive thing to say about a book, I ask if I can skip that review.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Amy, you are wonderful with the reviews and helpful criticism you give. I'm concerned with people who perhaps just want to be mean. The video review was like that. Because I know the artist, I was sad and disappointed someone would want to be hurtful to her.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Monty .. everyone seems to have summed up the appropriate behaviour - we really should think before we speak, or in this instance write ...

Desperately unnecessary .. and I hope the artist concerned goes on to great things ...

Cheers Hilary

Holly Jahangiri said...

As a writer, I sympathize and understand this point of view; we all want our creative outpourings to be well-liked and to read nice things about them!

ON THE OTHER HAND...

When something is published and out there for SALE, the reviewer's obligation is more to the buyer than to the seller, in my opinion.

Sometimes those negative reviews say more about the reviewer's own attitudes and abilities than they do about the work being reviewed, but so long as they are fair and based on the work itself and its appeal or usefulness to the buyer, and so long as factual assertions are supported with examples and opinions are clearly stated as such, I think we need to step back, take it on the chin, and move on. Stephen King's bestseller, Carrie, was rejected many times - and is not universally liked. I'm sure there are some pretty harsh words out there about King's work, and we mostly assume that someone earning millions from his writing doesn't care. I'll bet he cares, but has learned to take it on the chin, use it to his advantage if the criticism's valid, and move on - regardless.

Bob Sanchez said...

A thoughtful post, Mary. I try to balance the positive and negative, and never get personal or mean.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Hilary, thank you for your visit! The artist concerned is well-known nationally and probably internationally. She is an amazing teacher and a signature member of at least one of the national watercolor societies.

Holly, you certainly make a good point. The reviewer is obligated to the buyer. Still, I would rather not review a book I don't like rather than give it one star. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

Bob,you're like me. Thanks for visiting.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I really agree that it seems like some people are going out of their way to be critical. The whole review structure has gotten ridiculous, and especially on Goodreads I've seen some really mean-spirited, cruel reviews. And I wonder WHY?

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Haven't looked at the reviews on Goodreads, Karen. Am sorry to hear that. Thanks for visiting.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Monty,

I completely understand why this concerns you. I would've been annoyed too. There is ALWAYS SOMETHING positive to say about a work. AND there are ways to give constructive criticism without being mean.

I am all for the positive. BUT as Amy said flaws need to be pointed out for improvement. Harsh words are never constructive and only hurt the artist and devaluing their creativity.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks, Michael! I know you are a positive person, and I admire that! Also, some people respond better to criticism than others. Some egos are more fragile than others...

Julie Flanders said...

My mother taught me that saying too and I still live by it. I've never had the desire to slam someone's work. If I don't like something I just let it go.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Julie, thanks for your visit! That's what I think, too!