Healthy Critique

by MB Huwe

Some things are hard to write about in the marketing world without coming across like a cantankerous, festering, perfectionist critic. Pointing out people’s errors can be a tricky business.

In my estimation, there are approximately two kinds of criticism.

  1. The tearing-down, cruelly-intended, immobilizing kind.
  2. The constructive, helpful, elevating kind.

Number one is the worst. It is “ew”-worthy. The best example I can think of this is in my college writing class workshop days. SHUDDER. All the undergrads wanting to be *the most clever* (ironic, unexpected, etc.) ready to drop elbows and Cobra Kai everybody else’s asses. TERRIBLE. It was brutal and unrestrained by the “professor,” who I think rather enjoyed the sideshow.

The second version of criticism is still sometimes kinds of “ew,” but it’s actually very wonderful, ultimately. The constructive kind can feel like a blow, but that blow is usually to the Very Self-Cherishing Ego – the part of the self that resists with all ferocity available, plus some borrowed and/or stolen.

This is the self who sings maniacally (and menacingly) after creating something, “This song / copy / piece of art / choreography / site design / fill-in-your-blank is PERFECT. It is PERFECT because I MADE IT THAT WAY.”

And the Very Self-Cherishing Ego is not often that obvious, which makes it harder to recognize. Sometimes it is very, very crafty.

Anne Lamott, a national treasure of a writer, recently encapsulated constructive criticism and the ego response beautifully in a post on Instagram about her editor’s notes:

Each of his corrections and suggestions needs to be addressed by my tiny princess self. I agree with his marks 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, I decide to break off our working relationship, as he is clearly an obsessive-compulsive sado-masochist. (I have a tiny, tiny problem with criticism of any kind.)

Yes. I can relate that that on both sides of the pen – as writer and as editor.

As an editor, I set myself the standard of constructive criticism. My little notes, suggestions, and explanations serve to liberate the message that is somehow entangled.

That’s what editing is about… if you’re not a jerk, anyway.


MB Outdoor Headshot

I’m Mary Beth Huwe (pronounced Huey. Obviously.) I offer writing and branding services for business and life.

The “business” part is content strategy for entrepreneurs. It’s intentional content marketing made fun, invigorating, and designed specifically for the entrepreneur and small business owner.

The “life” part is Writes of Passage. It is about crafting ceremonies that honor life’s big shifts – weddings, births, deaths, and other transitions.

These essays are forays into the art and essence of communication. They have not been subjected to the full scrutiny of my editor’s eye(s), and may contain typos. (But you’ll probably never find apostrophe abuse, because that’s just cruel.)

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