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Thursday, May 1, 2014

On Criticism, Reviews, and the Opinions of Others

Hi crazy kids! Recently I did an email interview for a woman who's working on a project about artistry and criticism, and I thought her questions were interesting and thought-provoking! So, per her permission, I decided to cut and paste the Q&A below. Check it out and let me know your thoughts. 

What do you believe is the purpose of critique? Do you like reading (or writing) reviews for books, theater, music, even products? Have you ever had to face unsolicited criticism? Share in the comments section below!


1. What was the first official criticism (review) of your work that you ever received? How did you feel about it?

FR: I was first reviewed in college, by the Yale Daily News. I remember thinking it was a strange concept. When you work on a character and throw yourself into a role, there's little concern for how things look or how "good" it is. It's just about being truthful and finding whatever clicks for you as the performer. Hearing a third party give their take on what to you is just reality, sprung to life, is very disorienting. Plus these were college students writing about other college students. Like, your friends are talking about you in a public way. Very weird!

2. Do you enjoy reading criticisms of your work? Why or why not?

FR: If it's negative? Hell no. Reading criticisms about stuff you believe in is, like I said, disorienting (at best) and, at worst, painful. It takes someone with zero ego to read something negative about themselves and not feel at least a little sting.  

3. What are some of your current projects? How do you want them to be received?

FR: After my first book, Unnaturally Green, I've been searching for my next long-form writing project. I flip flop between dabbling in a sequel memoir and venturing into fiction. Fiction is a whole other beast, so I'm still learning. I'm also very much into online education, and recently released a complete singing course called Belt Your Face Off, which combines video, audio, and writing -- it's a multimedia experience. I definitely plan to keep teaching online and providing resources for singers of all levels. So there are more courses on the horizon.

4. What is the harshest critique you have ever received? How did you respond to it?

FR: Sometimes people read Unnaturally Green and it can get kind of personal, which is off-putting. Somebody was once like, "I hate to say it, but I just don't like Felicia." I just had to lol it off. Also YouTube can be brutal and catty. 

5. What has been your favorite critique of your work (positive or negative)? How did you respond to it?

FR: It means the most when the people I love and respect and know me well tell me they're proud and that my work reflects who I am. My fiancé Marshall helped me edit my book and his opinion means the world because he knows me so well and also knows good writing.

6. Do you react differently to critique now then you used to? If so, what are the differences?

FR: I definitely react differently. For starters, I don't seek out reviews at all. If they find their way to my inbox or internet browser, I'll take a glance. And I'm much less offended or whatever. If someone says something negative in a really harsh way, I don't take it personally. There might be a moment where my face goes flush, but it wears off very quickly. 

7. Do you let critiques affect your work? If so, how?

FR: Nah. Criticism seems so external and separate from the creation of the work. When you're doing good work, you're immersing yourself in the process and in what you're trying to say. It would be a disservice to yourself and to your art to worry about end-of-the-pipe reactions.

8. What do you believe the purpose of critique is?

FR: I believe critiques help clarify things for the people writing the critiques. Putting things on paper and articulating your reaction to a provocative work is helpful in that it brings you, and other readers, clarity. So, in other words, critiques help spectators know themselves; perhaps they're curious to understand how their own thoughts and beliefs fit into the world. But I don't believe it serves much good for the artist. Unless you're in a class and you're working with a mentor or professor -- then I believe critiques can be super constructive, as long as everyone involved is game for the process and is respectful of each other.


  1. I don't like writing bad reviews. I tend to take the advice of Thumper on this one and just don't say anything unless it is positive. I never feel the freedom of anonymity that some people get from the internet, so I don't say anything that I wouldn't say to the person's face.

    I do like reading critiques on things, though - and I tend to throw out the highest and lowest one and aim for the middles in order to get a good read on something. If someone LOVES it or HATES it, then it is probably one to take with a grain of salt.

    1. Amy! I hadn't ever thought of it that way, but yes -- often the most measured, thoughtful reviews are the most helpful. Thanks for the comment!