It is easy to be a critic. All one needs is an attitude and the perception that I’m the one with the blue pencil that determines whether the publication will pay for the writer’s work. It’s like the guy that signs his name on a pay check each week, an anonymous, mystical creature that lives high above the assembly line, in some obscure office, likely adorned with fragments of his life---buck-toothed wife holding snotty-nosed kids.
Some romanticise this power, imagining that the critic will emerge like some prim-lipped librarian that only needs to release her tight bun, let her hair flow around her shoulders, to become the woman of our dreams. She’ll instantly love you, and you’ll watch as she licks lips that suddenly grow rich and luscious beneath our gaze as if they suddenly got an injection of botox.
Being a reviewer is tougher. Accepting the intent of the writer, skipping over flaws and measuring words, not by word count but by the emotion that substantiates the story, should be easy, but it’s not.
Some people simply have nothing to say. Their linguistic abilities overshadow their boring self-indulgence with technical store-bought tutorials.
When a writer marches across the page and stirs a physical reaction, it is akin to a person being asked to imagine they are sucking on a lemon. Their mouths automatically begin to water.
A great writer does exactly that. He or she makes the reader feel the sense of dread, wonder or awe. We are instantly transported into a forest, feel the knife as it pierces our flesh or fall in love and audibly sigh.
Strike a chord, hit a nerve or evoke a sense of outrage. If your words don’t connect with the anonymous reader, you can still make a living as a writer. Understand and take pride in your ability to knit yarn into argyle. Write copy for brochures or sell your language abilities online as a masterful letter writer who can turn other people’s emotions into dynamic letters. But know your limits and don’t be pretentious. You can’t be all things to all people or genres.
On the other hand, if you are a bleeder, someone who has powerful emotions that seek paper, don’t be afraid to let the fountain pen ooze onto the page. A writer can take courses, find technical support, but the person who can make another taste honey in some distant winter storm, should not be shackled.
Writing, at its basest level, is nothing more than asking a stranger to walk beside you.