Am I a Tough Critic?

Before I answer the question, let me confess something surprising. I don’t like to read novels or works of fiction in general. It might be surprising that I, a writer who has written a few novels already, do not like to read them myself. What kind of strange being am I to have two contradictory natures within the same mind, like a monstrous creature made by sewing together two different animals that are enemies by nature? (Oddly enough, this is very similar to the plot of the novel I am working on.)

Despite not being a fan of fiction I nonetheless enjoy writing it, it gives me a thrill of having achieved something grand. At first when I started writing I did it purely to get the recognition from other people, but I came to love the craft itself. Nonetheless I remain lukewarm to most works of fiction, picking up a novel only rarely, and when I do I usually feel it is more of a chore than a natural pleasure.

But now I think I understand why despite not enjoying fiction, I nonetheless enjoy writing it. Recently I have been sending my work to other writers to be critiqued, and in return I critique their work. After doing this for a year or so I discovered that people think I am a tough critic, which initially surprised me. To be honest, if you are to critique a work there was no use to mindlessly praise the work without pointing out its weak points. But as I looked back at the way I critique other people’s writings, I realized that I had been a tough critic. While other people were able to lavish praise on other’s work, I seldom did that and concentrated on the deficiencies in other people’s writing. I gradually came to realize that I am a much more critical person when it comes to fiction.

At first it made me feel sad because I don’t want to be the person who constantly rains on other people’s parades. Then when I thought about it more, I realized that maybe I am a tough critic because I have good taste in literature. Even though I usually don’t enjoy reading novels, the books I do read are usually the best of the best. For example, my favorite writers are Voltaire, Dostoevsky and Mark Twain. I think part of it is that they were all great humorists, but they were all wonderful writers as well. A reasonable conclusion might be that I enjoy writing fiction because I have such discerning tastes in literature there are few writers that are good enough for me, therefore I began writing my own as an attempt to create a work that’s up to my own standards. So far I don’t think I have succeeded, but at least I have fun writing.

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