The impact of destructive criticism can vary from person to person. The motive for giving it out also, of course, varies.
Sometime a noble motive is put forward. I call this the “get real” motive. Here the justification for attempting to rubbish some writing or even its author, is that the author needs “waking” up to how bad they are. The destructive criticiser is “doing the person a favour in the long run”. I find such a motive very suspect and, at best, often misjudged and misplaced. The impact will usually be more than “waking someone up”. It can cause dejection and demotivation.
“Don’t give up your day job.”
Often critcism is destructive, simply because it is lazily or clumsily articulated. For example:
“That poem was an overdose of repetition”. Hidden in here is something constructive of course which might have better been articulated as: “There was far too much repetition in the poem. For example…” The first criticism would be taken as less destructive if the writer and critic knew and trusted each other. However, in more public discussions and forums, where such trust cannot be presumed, the destructiveness has the potential to hurt rather than help. I would argue for expressing more specifically and accurately. Especially in writers’ chat rooms. But this takes more effort and thought.
In some writers’ chat rooms, criticism becomes destructive when:
1. The critic isn’t being a critic at all but is just there to cause damage or trouble for their own personal entertainment.
2. The critic has a fixed definition of what a good writer is and sees it as a “moral mission” to destroy anyone who doesn’t match that definition and specifically those who seem to the critic to be “no-hopers”, or over-confident people who “need bringing down to earth.”
3. The critic is jealous of the ability of the writer’s work
4. The critic is simply incompetent or too lazy at giving well considered, clearly and helpfully expressed feedback, and so defaults to a lazier or clumsier style. (This lazy and quick typing is both a boon and a bane of chat rooms)
5. The critic doesn’t know how to give constructive criticism in the first place.
The destruction of course, may draw attention to the critic (and this may be their real motive anyway), it may destroy or harm the motivation or self-worth of the writer, it may create misunderstanding and hurt. It will often sap the energy of a chat room or harm its creative or supportive atmosphere.
Writers who work professionally or who aspire to be writers see constructive criticism as necessary to their improvement as writers. Some welcome it more than others. Good constructive criticism may be articulated well and itself be an example of good writing. So often the poor quality and lack of even wit in destructive criticism simply shows the critic as a poor writer, lazy, clumsy and the last person on the planet the writer being criticised should listen to.
At this point, the author of this posting will, ironically, smirk.
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