Let’s Talk About Peer Reviews

Part of being in the arts is that your stuff will get reviewed. There is no way around this fact. There will be people who love your work, downright hate it or give an overwhelming “meh.” Or, as some people a little too sensitive about their work would say “haters” and “fans.” But then there’s the other type of people. These are your fellow writers/artists. The term for these people are “peers” or “contemporaries.”

That’s where things get a bit complicated. You see, this is where you can’t they’re “haters” or “jealous” or anything like that. These are people doing the same exact thing as you are. They HAVE done what you’ve done and will continue to do that. So, do you take advice from your peers or do you shun them? The obvious answer is to listen to them.

Now, I’m fully aware that there are hacks out there. But you have to admit that they are doing something to make money in their field. You can take this as a sort of taking advice and doing what they told you a million times better. Take that statement as a way of saying the student surpassing the teacher.

Has this type of thing caused any kind of rivalries? Of course! One of the best that comes to mind is between F. Scot Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. You see, Fitzgerald and Hemingway were at one time best of buddies. Once The Sun Also Rises was published, however, they had a major falling out.  There’s even an entire book that talks about this. Hell, I remember Brooklyn College offered an ENTIRE COURSE on these two. (Yes, I took it and got a B, thank you very much.) Hell, there’s an entire chart showing which writers hated which.

Why is that? Competition? Mudslinging? Or is it just each person giving their own opinions. I’d pick all of them. Yes, ALL OF THEM! You see, we as a species enjoy competition. Why do you think sports have been around for so long? Hell, why do you think there are video game tournaments? Us artists/writers are no different. We see one of our own publish something so, as a way of what today is called “supporting a fellow writer/artist” we by their stuff. And we form some strong opinions about it. One of my favorite reviews is of Salmon Rushdie saying about 50 Shades of Grey, “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace.” That right there is saying a lot.

Some people look at reviews by novelists and ask why. I say why not? We’re readers, too. We enjoy a good book as much as the next literate person. We also have a right to call a peer’s stuff garbage. We also have a right to praise the ever  living crap out of another’s work.

And that’s a good thing.

We as artists/writers thrive on the opinions of people in our industry. It’s one of the things that drive us to do what we do and love. We may not like some of the stuff that’s being said, but to many of us that’s fine as long as we don’t have to share a table at conventions or (god forbid) have talks on the same day. This is MY audience. Back, you scurvy dog.

For those asking, “why how did this idea come about?” It came about when reading the analysis Sei Hatsuno gave to Another. He started by saying, ” it is difficult for novelists to critique novels objectively,” and he is absolutely right. Novels are meant to give the reader a certain type of emotion(s). That’s how every review of everything comes from. We can add in some critical analysis to our reviews, but the sad truth is most of what is said comes from our emotions.

So, my fellow artists/writers, don’t be afraid to let out what you really feel about a peer. You may make an enemy or a very powerful ally. It’s our fuel and it’s how we make what we create better by one-upping each other. And that, my friends, is a win-win for the general public. It also keeps the tabloids in business.

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