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We’re Having the Wrong Conversations About the Future of Theatre Criticism!

theatre criticism Scene from "Side by Side by Sondheim". Photograph: Courtesy of Scott Rylander.

We constantly talk about the quality and future of theatre criticism but seldom about its sustainability, which is a much bigger issue!

Many of you know that I’m currently on a bit of a break from theatre critiquing. Work and physical and mental health have meant that I’ve had no choice other than to press a rather large “Pause” button on Grumpy Gay Critic for the time being. Why? Because it’s a LOT of work being an independent critic. I’ve essentially been brought to the precipice of giving it all up simply because it’s something that is difficult to sustain unless you’re a fully paid critic or happen to have financial security on your side. But as we’re seeing more and more cuts at the publications that used to be the bastion of theatre criticism, and the rise of the influence of bloggers and independent critics, a conversation about how we enable the good voices to continue to be heard is something we really need to talk about. So why aren’t we?

The Customer is Never Right, Right?

“[“Top critics” and editors] set the standard for “good theatre criticism”, and if the customer doesn’t like it and/or wants something else, then the customer is, according to them, wrong.”

A lot of the current discussions around “the future of theatre criticism” has been “top critics” and editors talking about protecting the quality of theatre criticism and validating its platforms. From my experiences it’s been more about the old guard bleating about the “dangers” of bloggers as they see more of their influence decline to them. The crux of their arguments is that there is a drift happening towards a new standard of theatre criticism that they don’t like. All these arguments and forums are often dominated by “top critics” and editors rather than bloggers (1 out of the 10 strong panel at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was a blogger), but they know best, right? The problem I have with this argument that, frankly, the new standard has already arrived! To say that bloggers have a paltry influence in theatre criticism is insufferably pompous and blinkered. We’ve established ourselves a thriving and integral part of critical conversations and in some cases have rivaled and even bettered some of the more institutionalised voices.

The reason this has happened is that bloggers and independent critics have tapped into a customer demand for something that is different to what was only available before. Yes, there are now some very emotive responses to theatre that are not too analytical, but that’s what some audiences like to read. Some audiences want something witty and snappy, and there are publications that provide that. Others only want to see a star rating. But that doesn’t mean that the traditional long-form review is redundant. They’re still being read and cherished by those audiences who still want that style of reviewing, still consuming reviews that manage to get decent column space in what remains of newpapers’ arts sections. My reviews for Grumpy Gay Critic come in at around 1000 words, making them comparably more in depth and detailed to other fellow indie critics. But both Grumpy Gay Critic and all sites that offer something different have grown over the past few years, simply because they’re being read and used by PRs and theatre companies, whilst the arts and reviews sections in the big publications have done nothing but decline and reduce.

The audience for theatre criticism today is one that thrives on diversity. Every type of voice, as long as it’s honest, informative, chimes a cord with its readership, and is of use to theatres and PRs, is as valid as that of the “Lead Critics” of the crumbling ivory towers that are large publications. Therefore, “top critics” constantly banging on about protecting the status quo and “quality” of theatre criticism is the wrong way to approach the audience. They’re basically saying that they and they alone set the standard for “good theatre criticism”, and if the customer doesn’t like it and want something else, then the customer is, according to them, wrong. But this only serves to alienate “proper theatre criticism” from a market that is already thriving without it, achieving bugger all and ultimately driving the last nail deeper into their own coffin.

A Broken Solution

“The problem is that you’re incorporating people into a system that’s already falling apart. Theatre criticism is no longer a full-time occupation, and these posts simply do not pay enough for it to be the only means of sustenance for a critic.”

The most talked about solution to maintaining the “quality of theatre criticism” is trying to absorb good bloggers into the current structure by making them staff writers. The problem is that you’re incorporating people into a system that’s already falling apart. Theatre criticism is no longer a full-time occupation, and these posts simply do not pay enough for it to be the only means of sustenance for a critic. Out of some of the well-known critics I know: one has a bespoke self-employed legal business, another teaches critical writing at several universities, and another is a semi-retired architect. My current salary is over £25,000 p.a. (and that’s pretty mediocre for London), and if I were to move into a full-time paid critical position it would certainly have to come close to matching that or I simply wouldn’t be able to live and review at the same time unless I’m prepared to really tighten my belt, or have a considerable amount of capital to fall back on. Given that my mother’s parents were refugees and my father grew up in the poor part of Swansea, unless there’s some Nigerian Prince who is inexplicably related to me and wants to transfer some royal funds into the UK via my bank account, there’s not much chance of me replacing Paul Taylor anytime soon.

Work, Work, Work, Work, Work

“Back when I was reviewing on average 3 shows a week, you’re looking at up around 16 hours a week that goes into Grumpy Gay Critic…That’s a total working/writing time of about 50 hours per week.”

So, unless you’re somewhat privileged, the only course of action is to blog or write unpaid for a publication on top of a full time job. I work a 37.5 hour week meaning that any shows I go to see are in the evenings after work. My write-up time is essentially lunchtime, any time in the evening I’m not out at a show, and my weekends. Each review for me takes about 2-3 hours from first draft to final proof. So, back when I was reviewing on average 3 shows a week, you’re looking at up around 16 hours a week that goes into Grumpy Gay Critic (3x approximately 2.5 hours shows, and 3x approximately 3 hours writing time per review). That’s a total working/writing time of about 50 hours per week.

I am by far not the only independent critic in this situation. Many bloggers and indie reviewers also work full time. Some sites are run and coordinated by people who also work full time. So So Gay, where I started reviewing, was just that. The entire team of editors, sub editors, and contributors were voluntary and had full-time jobs, and yet So So Gay still managed to be nominated alongside The Guardian for Stonewall’s “Publication of the Year” in 2011. Many existing sites are run on a similar unpaid model, using ad revenues to cover the running costs, as well as there being us solo souls that pour our leisure hours into reviewing theatre. Being a blogger or an independent critic is a LOT of time and energy. We do it because we love the theatre, sacrificing a lot of our spare time to do this because we want to.

We manage to make it work, but sometimes only just. What’s Peen Seen?, a great site that I was privileged to write for, closed because Adam Penny, it’s owner, was unable to sustain it on top of a full time job. Even among the Theatre Bloggers network, there are sometimes the odd voice that seeks advice because they’re finding it difficult to sustain what they’ve created, expanded upon, and been successful with. Those who stay sometimes stay at the skin of the teeth, having to make compromises to do so.

How To Fix It?

“Unless we figure it out, the critical scene will always be a collection of good voices that will pipe up but will eventually be lost because they cannot be sustained, plus a conveyor-belt of wealthy individuals who can put the time in because they have the money.”

So you can see the problem: “top critics” see the only solution is to preserve the dying status quo by subsuming struggling voices into a structure that does not address the issue that makes that voice struggling in the first place; with independent critics being unable to sustain their craft unless they’re financially wealthy. But how can something be sustained when the means to sustain it no longer exists? This is why the conversations about sustaining theatre criticism, especially among bloggers and independent critics, is actually far more important than protection the “quality” and “future” of theatre criticism. Unless we figure it out, the critical scene will always be a collection of good voices that will pipe up but will eventually be lost because they cannot be sustained, plus a conveyor-belt of wealthy individuals who can put the time in because they have the money.

One possible solution is for independent critics and/or critical posts to be sponsored by various bodies within the industry, as the Boston Globe did recently, but, as Michael Billington pointed out, it does pose questions about the impartiality of reviews. But does the fact that it can fully fund a critic outweigh possible conflicts of interests, especially as some would argue this type of funding is tantamount to advertising anyway? But again, we need to discuss this, and not what makes a blogger worthy enough to write, and what platform is worthy of publishing an opinion!

25 Comments on We’re Having the Wrong Conversations About the Future of Theatre Criticism!

  1. Frankie MG // 15th November 2016 at 12:01 //

    In this circular rambling peevish diatribe it’s hard to know what you want. A job? Unlikely, since professional reviews must be pithy and 300 words. A grant? Why? – people should pay for their own hobbies and it seems at least you get free tickets unlike many better blogs. Pity? You’re rolling in your own – and what have you got against architects and lawyers, if you went to university so had similar educational chances?

  2. I am the ‘semi-retired architect’ maligned in this piece – James conveniently left out ‘millionaire’ but I’ve got Coutts Bank on hold on the other line and am too busy ordering roast peacock for lunch and giving the servants their instructions to mind.

    Not that I feel any need to defend myself from captious accusations but I am from the humblest of backgrounds – I come from a long line of Lancashire mill workers and my grandmother’s grandmother turned to prostitution during the Cotton Famine. A scholarship boy at school, anything I made or earned derives from my own resource and hard work, and James should be ashamed to blame me for it.

    I’m also quite proud to be Theatre Editor of Londonist – a site with 200 times the readership or social media following of Grumpy Gay Whatnot, and for which I acknowledge I am paid – although roughly the equivalent of my gas bill. Londonist.com started as a bunch of likeminded writers in the pub, looking to collectively produce content about arts and events in the city. Ten years later, we have twenty theatre contributors, a million regular readers and a six-figure advertising revenue although, interestingly, none from theatre companies which keeps our reviews impartial. I say this not to boast, but to show how with just hard work and commitment you can make something from absolutely nothing and without grants or sponsorship or patronage.

    Most good bloggers – I’m thinking Ought to be Clowns, West End Whingers or Webcowgirl – treat it as a hobby and often pay for tickets. For a collective platform like Londonist, or smaller high quality specialists like Exeunt and The Arts Desk, and the open-access sites like A Younger Theatre and The Public Reviews / Reviews Hub – it’s a half-way house between voluntary work and business. These are probably the best ways to provide well-written criticism for a wider audience as an alternative to the print barons.

    But I have yet to read a blogger who is a fraction as clear, clever or concise as Michael Billington or Dominic Cavendish or Lyn Gardner, talented hard working scribes who genuinely earn their salaries. When I do, I’ll eat these words.

    • Ian Rohde-Bell // 16th November 2016 at 11:47 //

      Johnny, there’s not a single word maligning you in the piece. There’s nothing “blaming” you for your success either. The paragraph in which you’re mentioned is only there to illustrate that there are very few critics who live on income from criticism alone.

      But I think you already knew that.

  3. Richard Voyce // 15th November 2016 at 15:06 //

    I agree with Johnny Fox. If you’re finding it too onerous, organise your life better. You might start be being a faster writer. Get yourself an iPad and you can have finished half the review on the train home, but I think I’d be tempted to ask myself why I’m actually doing it in the first place? Are you a playwright or composer? Then it’s research. If not, it’s ego.

  4. Maybe you need a pithier review of 300 to 400 words. I must admit that I find your reviews hard going and rambling and have struggled to finish the ones I’ve read much as I did with this article. I write for a website and see two or three plays a week and get the reviews in within 24 hours as well as working a 45 hour week in a demanding job. It’s manageable along with spending time with my friends and husband.

    • Thanks for the comment Susan. It’s a catch 22 with review length for me, because there are people, especially creatives, who have openly said that they like my longer and comprehensive reviews. It comes down to deciding who my audience is and catering for them. I’m absolutely aware that my long-form may not be to everyone’s taste, and that’s absolutely fine and don’t expect everyone to like it. The risk is that if I write too short and I lose the comprehensiveness which I’ve been told is a “USP” for Grumpy Gay Critic. Length is something I’m always wary of, and something I had to experiment with a lot during Edinburgh. Shorter reviews are something I can do (writing 300 word reviews in the past for QX Magazine and So So Gay, and even 50 word reviews for Classical Music Magazine!) but the longer reviews has become somewhat part of the identity of Grumpy Gay Critic. But yes, a possible change in that identity might help manage my situation.

      However, the article is not trying to highlight solely MY problems, it’s more about thinking about the sustainability for all bloggers who work full-time too. It’s great to hear that you’ve currently achieved a good balance with your writing style and output. 3x 1000 word reviews a week were not an issue for me a year ago or two ago, but alas, work and life circumstances change. I wouldn’t have written this article if I thought it was just me that had an issue, but there are others out there who I personally know are struggling to keep up with the day job as well as reviewing/running a site. My recent hiatus has given me a big pause for thought about how I can/should be going about this, which I’ve discussed at length with a good friend and theatre PR, and the article was more to start a conversation rather than only bemoan my own situation and blithely attack others.

      As it looks like blogs and indie critics really are the future, and that aspiring critics should realistically look at also doing full-time work (as purportedly said by Tom Wicker at the Theatrecraft event on Monday), then there needs to be more conversation about how to enable the good ones to continue and thrive alongside full-time work commitments. The problem is that no-one can really offer a clear answer at the moment, hence why the article is trying to start a conversation about it, rather than feed into the laboured discussions about defining “good” criticism and “good” platforms as a means of continuing criticism.

      None the less, thanks for getting to the end of my article and leaving a comment! I feel I should get some “I made it to the end of a Grumpy Gay Critic article” badges made (or is that ironcially too much to put onto a badge?) XD

  5. Thank you James. This is all very well but perhaps you should stick to your day job, as it were.

    • Thanks Susan. But I’ll stick to my day job when I stop: getting invited to review shows by individuals and well established fringe and off-West End PRs, appearing on promotional material, invited to shows as a guest because the creatives want my feedback and presence regardless, invited onto panels, and receiving emails from theatre creators about how much they value what I’ve written about their shows.

      For now, I just want to raise a wider issue, as well as try and solve the hurdles I’m facing myself in the here and now.

  6. Unlike some of the people commenting here, I didn’t read this as a personal plea for support but a general comment on the sustainability of theatre criticism. It’s not that anyone is owed a favour, it’s that a system that depends on people working long, unsociable hours for no pay is hard to keep going for very long. For those of us who value theatre criticism, that’s a worry – just as it is a worry when theatremakers work long, unsociable hours for no pay.

    We should remember, though, that historically, there have never been many full-time theatre critics – just a handful in a few metropolitan centres. I’ve been a professional critic for nearly 30 years, but I’ve only ever made a small percentage of my income from writing reviews (the rest has come from feature writing, editing, teaching etc). We shouldn’t be too surprised if people continue to write reviews alongside other jobs, but it does seem to me that we need to take very seriously schemes such as the one in Boston or, indeed, the “six-figure advertising revenue” generated by the Londonist.

    More thoughts on this theme here: http://howtowriteabouttheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/should-theatres-employ-critics.html and http://howtowriteabouttheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/is-criticism-worth-valuing.html

    • Thanks Mark. I’m glad someone has taken from the article what I intended people to, and thanks so much for sharing your own thoughts on the issue!

  7. After a three month hiatus if there hasn’t been a clamour for his reviews other than from PR companies and Above The Pub Theatre plc, then perhaps there’s simply no demand for what he does and he should take up another therapeutic hobby ?

    • If I wasn’t receiving invites from PR companies, that would be a concern, seeing as they do all the inviting! As for poo-pooing fringe theatres (“Above The Pub Theatre plc”), I think that’s very disingenuous and highlights a theatre snobbery that really doesn’t have much of a place in reviewing: and on #LoveTheatreDay too! Fringe work is as vital as off-West End and West End. And as bigger papers are less and less inclined to cover some of the great and important work going on there (being represented by well known and respected PR companies), the job falls to bloggers who are able to dedicate such time to covering shows at smaller venues and by emerging artists.

    • Ian Rohde-Bell // 16th November 2016 at 11:50 //

      Ah, that old trope. “If there’s no market for it, it has no value”.

      I’ve always been led to believe that in the arts, work has a value that’s independent of what people are prepared to pay for it.

  8. The problem with blogs is they are unedited and are usually written for the writer’s benefit. Some blogs may develop a significant readership (most don’t) but their origin is always that the blogger wanted to put their view in the public domain.

    Reviews are not written for the benefit of “creatives” and writing reviews for the benefit of the people in the industry is a nonsense that will confine you to a very small readership who probably know more than you do. If you want to give detailed feedback to performers, become a director.

    Reviews are written for potential audiences deciding if a performance is worth parting with hard-earned cash. Taking 1000 words to say what can be said in 2 is self-indulgent writing. This is perfectly acceptable for a blog because, unlike subsidised reviewing, blogs are developed for the self-interest of the blogger.

    Keep doing your hobby if it makes you happy. We can’t all have our hobbies subsidised – the Arts Council made this perfectly clear in their feedback to my application for funding to wank incessantly to Loose Women in an Emin-style installation.

    • I’m inclined to disagree that reviews are not for the benefit of creators, but mainly only audiences. I have received plenty of feedback (mostly positive) from creatives both large and small scale about the content of the review and how it has helped them developed their craft. Companies DO read blog reviews, as PRs invite them as part of the general press, and more and more being treated on par with the bigger publications. If they weren’t relevant to creatives, then there wouldn’t have been such a rise of the importance and impact of bloggers and we wouldn’t be invited with the rest of the press by PRs.

      Diversity of feedback is very important to the development of the arts, and adding the blogger voice to that of directors and newspaper critics is vital for its growth and development. Different opinions from different backgrounds and perspective can only be a positive to the development of a show and helping the conversation about what is good/bad theatre. I think all voices are important, paid and unpaid writers both, which is why I raise the concern that good bloggers can sometimes find it difficult to sustain their writing, meaning we can lose some important points of view in crucial conversations about theatre.

      As for my “self-indulgence”, a lot of the feedback I’ve received from creatives and PRs is that my reviews cover more points than other blogs, and sometimes more than newspapers given the ever decreasing word column space they have to contend with. I go into depth about “writing” and “direction and production” because I feel that those are as important as if I thought the set looked nice and the actors were good. But that’s my style, and it has been one that has seen Grumpy Gay Critic grow and continue to grow. I don’t at all think that everyone will or have to like my style of writing. But I have evidence to show that what I’m doing has definite value, and won’t stop until proved otherwise. On top of that, when you take Danielle Tarento’s comments about the types of reviews she doesn’t find useful, it highlights that there is a demand from creatives for reviews that are useful to them, as well as helping to garner an audience.

      If I didn’t have an audience of theatre goers who actually like reading my reviews, then, as you highlighted, I would have a very small readership and Grumpy Gay Critic wouldn’t have much currency with creatives and PRs as it does. But I get feedback from people I genuinely don’t know about how much they like my style of writing and reading my blog. Some, of course, will hate it (like Susan B), but one person’s meat is another one’s poison!

      The issue I have with yours, and a lot of comments so far on here, is that the backlash to my opinion so far is mostly other writers saying that they don’t like my style, and are trying to define what is good (300-400 looking like the apparent optimum). But there are bloggers who write 700-800 who are just as successful and vital as newspapers and bigger publications, and just as valued as those who write more concisely elsewhere. The people who decide what reviews and what writing is “good” are the PRs and theatre creatives who take what they think is valuable from it, regardless of style, medium, or length: not a conclave of critics bickering about who’s writing they like and don’t like!

      This is the problem I’m trying to highlight. We’re spending too much time to trying to define “quality” rather than try to figure out how to support the type of writing that audiences and creatives have said have value, and have spurred their success.

      • It certainly appears verbosity is a style you’re determined to cling to.

        I am loath to enter into a discussion with you because any feedback you have received on this thread has been dismissed because it doesn’t match alleged feedback from “creatives”.

        It is naive to believe PR companies invite you performances for your detailed amateur feedback. You are a marketing tool; your hobby is being used to market the performance for free. Your “importance and impact” (for clarity, inverted commas for quotation rather than irony) end there. Creatives know which side their bread is buttered and will hardly risk a malicious review by telling a reviewer their writing is tedious dross.

        The question of quality is central. Creatives can’t be relied upon to identify it because their ulterior motive is clear. Audiences can’t be relied upon to identify it (just ask Hillary Clinton) but can be relied upon to be pragmatic. A blog can be useful to both these groups but the value attached to that is nebulous. It is counter-intuitive to subsidise low-quality work but even if we did, which tedious dross would we choose to subsidise?

        I am not a writer, by the way, just a beleaguered reader.

        • Clive, I’m tired of other people telling me what they think is good criticism when they’re not part of the people who I’m receiving feedback from within the industry, who I actually place more value on because they’re the ones criticism effects the most. Instead, apart from The Guardian’s Mr. Fisher’s, who has left a most constructive and objective comment and actually perceived the article in the light I had meant, everyone else seems to insist that they know best about what makes good criticism, and take great pains to tell me why I don’t meet their standards. That’s not what this article is about, but people would rather rake my style across the coals rather than having a conversation about the topic present.

          You accuse me of being insistent, yet you do seem equally as unprepared to accept my experiences as a critic working alongside creatives and being open to actually conversing with them rather than turning up, drinking the free booze, and then buggering off. So, maybe it’s best that you are “loathe to enter a discussion with you” because I fear we’re at an impasse as you refuse to give validity to my opinions and experiences.

          As for being a marketing tool, who’s review, blogger’s or paper’s, isn’t?! If you fancy being snobby about PR’s, like Shenton, be my guest. But they’re the ones that keep bloggers coming and have led to the rise of their “impact and influence”. If this wasn’t undeniable, people in the Critic’s Circle would not constantly be cowing about how to “protect” criticism from bloggers. Quality can be defined by several measures, not just a subjective judging of writing standard by a self-defined few and by purely subjective criteria. I can also be measured in quotability/usefulness, audience size, and usefulness to creatives as valid feedback. And creatives DO tell writers if they think their writing is tedious dross: believe me, I’ve had more than a couple of emails about that in my time. Likewise, I know PRs who do drop publications if they don’t meet a standard, and others who won’t take publications on if they don’t feel they’re of good enough quality.

          But I shan’t beleaguer you any longer. Although, if you’re so long-suffering about my writing, I would question why you even read this verbose article and chose to engage in this conversation in the first place!

  9. You appear to be replying to an argument happening in your head rather than the one happening on the page.

    Feel free to write a relevant response when you’ve read over my comment again without applying your own (volatile) narrative.

  10. This thread is money for frayed old rope: he’s invoicing himself. There is just no viable or sustainable future in arts journalism as a career. James, continue your weekly mission to illustrate the law of diminishing returns.

  11. “people would rather rake my style across coals rather than having a conversation about the topic present”

    Is English even your first language? The mixed and inaccurate metaphors with which you pepper your writing, and the inaccurate usage of so many terms could suggest otherwise.

    If you could concisely put forward an argument about ‘the future of criticism’, someone might engage with it. But you can’t. In fact – and someone needs to tell you this – you can’t write. Not for journalism, not for this genre. Have you been on a journalism course? It would be much more profitable for you than turning out more loghorreic prose nobody but the PR industry reads and then only to pick out a five-word quote, because you need both tutorial guidance and an internal editing ability.

    Till then, just stop. Please.

  12. Edwin R, there is a contact email address in James’ ‘About’ section. I’m sure, if you have advice on how he could develop his writing, he’d welcome your reaching out to him. But to post these comments in a public forum — and to frame them the way you have — would suggest your aim is to humiliate him, rather than offer support. However, I’m confident I’ve misread your intention. Because what sort of person derives satisfaction from that?

  13. I’m genuinely dismayed at the responses here (a couple aside) it seems that critics cannot take critisism themselves, not that I saw any to begin with. What kind of behaviour is this… Verging on bullying!

    In my humble opinion James has always delivered in depth and insightful responses to his theatre experiences. Carefully looking at each element of the piece and explaining his reasoning. Sometimes I agree sometimes I don’t. But I certainly appreciate the lengths he goes to.

    It also shows he cares about what he’s seen. It’s obviously not at the mercy of advertising departments who need to ensure positive coverage for additional revenue.

    You keep doing you James. See as many or as few shows as you can whilst actually paying your bills with work. We all need to eat. Frankly I always look forward to your viewpoint so let the mean girls go about their ranting… #ignore

  14. Thanks for providing wonderful insight and just enough acerbic wit to make me giggle just a bit too hard some days. The world of an independent (be it as a blogger, journalist, critic or otherwise) is a challenging one because of the way today’s society undervalues the arts.
    Please do not be discouraged Mr. Waygood! Independent critics are essential to the success of both independent and mainstream theatre!

  15. Hey James, I’m coming late to this debate (work has been a priority for me this week too). And in the spirit of adding a positive contribution to this debate, I would like to focus on your point about sustainability. Here are my suggestions for how bloggers (or those who want to be bloggers) can keep going:

    1. It is unlikely to be your day job so make it manageable. Breaks are ok. Even sabbaticals! I try and limit myself to two shows a week. My web traffic and tweets suffer from this but on the plus side I get to do a range of interesting stuff in a single week. Bloggers tend to capture the spirit and fun of going out to the theatre. So what you lack in quantity of coverage you make up in other areas. This includes helping connect shows to an audience they might not have had.

    2. Pick a specialism if that helps to keep it manageable. Fringe dramas, new writing, plays for gays with gratuitous nudity…

    3. You get better with writing by writing… Bloggers usually don’t have the benefit of an editor. But you can be your own critic in the long run. Go back and read what you wrote six months earlier, laugh at it, cringe at it or be proud of it. It gives you the opportunity to think about what you think works and what you want to develop.

    4. Use technology. Not just a spelling chequer for your picking out spelling miss steaks but one that identifies cliches and rather overly long sentences with too many adverbs. I use Hemingway app. It picks up my fondness for dropping too many adverbs and writing long-winded sentences with far too many phrases (with added parenthesis). Ok it’s going off the scale here.

    I think Sammi from Theatre Bloggers once said that we are a weird and diverse lot. That definitely makes us interesting. And so the most important thing is to not stop. Slow down if necessary but keep on writing!

    • Hi Paul. Thanks for leaving a positive and constructive response (they’re so rare these days).

      Firstly: “spell chequer”. I know I’m the last person who has authority to pick up on someone else’s typo, but this gave me a good laugh. The irony is just perfect. 🙂

      On a serious note, those are certainly all things I’m constantly aware and thinking about, and think everyone should be aware of. As a personal example, part of the reason for my break was to take time to consider these things and plan what I can do moving forward in my current situation. A writer from The Stage has recommended I think about taking a sub-editing course, as a way of improving the standard of writing on Grumpy Gay Critic, which I will seriously be looking into alongisde your suggestion of Hemingway. All the points and tips you’ve raised are pertinent, appropriate, and important.

      But you’ve also raised something else, which I don’t think came across well in my original ramblings. Bloggers certainly do need to do their best to make the situation work for them too. I’m not suggesting that they should be entirely subsidised and financially pampered. I’m not really suggesting anything because I honestly don’t think there is a solution at the moment, hence the need for discussion. The Boston Globe example is an illustration of one way that one publication has tried to approach the problem.

      The prompt behind this opinion piece is the frustration that I have with arguments surrounding the “future of criticism” in that it hardly acknowledges that good criticism is already happening outside of established publications and other publications with a remit and resources: some even see what happens among independent critics as a threat to criticsm. If the conversations really were about ensuring a future where good criticism can thrive, then helping to sustain good criticism, in the bloggersphere and with smaller online publications, even making sure paid positions at larger publication can actually be a living wage than a salary top-up, absolutely needs to be addressed, or we’ll just have people who’ve had the privilege and fortune to get to the situation their in (and I’m not suggesting people in legal, teaching, or architectural fields people are undeserving of their well-earned security) dominating the critical landscape and great voices that could have been prevented from being lost.

      None the less, thanks again for the response, and I sincerely look forward to seeing you at another Theatre Bloggers event, or even at a press night very soon 😀

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