Tag Archives: guest blogger

The art of criticism

I’ve had private queries about the kind of feedback I’m looking for here, and we do get comments from some who clearly have no idea what productive criticism looks like so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to lay out my thoughts on the subject. As ever, your additions, critiques, questions and whatnot are very welcome.

I don’t personally find ‘constructive criticism’ all that helpful. By this I mean the kind of feedback where a person tells you what they think you could do to improve. There’s far too much subjective opinion in that process, and if the person providing the suggestions has totally different beliefs and objectives, the feedback can be worse than useless. On the other hand if someone says what they don’t like, and why, that’s really helpful. Equally, disagreements and reasons are very useful. I may not agree but it gives me a chance to understand. “That was a rubbish blog” is of little use. “That was a rubbish blog because you totally ignored what I think are the key issues,” is better. Tell me what the key issues are that I’ve missed, and we’re getting somewhere.

I write this blog for a number of reasons. Sometimes just for catharsis. Often to help me work through issues, or concepts that I am trying to understand. Always because I am interested in testing ideas on other people and getting responses. Of course it’s lovely when people agree with me and make warm affirming noises. But I don’t expect to get things right all the time and there is always more to any subject than I could hope to know about.

I love it when people add details, experiences, other philosophy that relates to what I’ve posted about – regardless of whether it agrees. Please, please keep these coming, they add so much and I have learned a lot from this feedback.

Please do ask questions. If something doesn’t make sense, or I’ve skimmed over an idea (inevitable really when writing small blog posts) then do poke me for more. I really enjoy writing to order, so if there are topics you’d like to see discussed, poke me, and if I can, I will. If you feel strongly about a subject and want to contribute your own post, then do get in touch. Email me, or leave a comment on the guest blogger’s page. I’m always very happy to post content from others, and if you want to express a radically different take to mine, this will be your best way of doing so.

If you know something that I don’t, and feel it casts a topic in a different light, do pile in. If you spot a logical inconsistency in my argument, comment! I want to know. If you think I’m biased, or prejudiced, or mistaken, say so, and don’t pull any punches. But do take the time to explain why, because that’s far more useful for anyone reading this blog, me included. If you disagree with my conclusions, please use the comment space to explain your own.

Where people are interested in thinking deeply and examining ideas, I welcome whatever comes, no matter how much you disagree with me. I am also open to being persuaded, (probably not in the sense of conversion to another religion entirely, but to other philosophical notions and viewpoints.) So, if your purpose is to share information and push for deeper understandings, if you are here to give, to interact, and if you don’t mind the risk of a strenuous conversation, then go for it.

I am only going to delete comments in extreme circumstances. Thus far I haven’t felt any need to – aside from the usual spam that has nothing to do with the blog. But I do believe in holding boundaries and in not encouraging people who enjoy making a nuisance of themselves. A judgement of what constitutes ‘nuisance’ will ultimately come down to me because I have control of and responsibility for this site, so it is no kind of democracy. However, the thing most likely to make me block, delete or ban is if other commenters express problems with comments. I know I am blessed with some very lovely people here who take the time to share. I want to cultivate the sense of community we have, I think, between people who blog, and comment on each other’s words. I’m not going to sacrifice that to the whims of any passing trolls.

Wild Weather

by guest blogger Autumn Barlow

There’s a refrain in a song by Tom McRae where he’s chanting under a swell of orchestra. The storm is rising in me; the storm is rising in me; the blood is rising in me; the blood is rising in me.

They send a shiver through my bones, those lines. They swirl around me when the weather is rough – when the wind howls, the rain batters, and something calls me to run through wild places.

When it drizzles, or it’s cold, I’m like anyone else. I light a fire and curl up with a cup of tea, reading a book or listening to music. But when the weather is truly awful I am tugged outside by something deep and visceral.

Maybe it’s about extremes. The raw physicality of being a small, fleshy, fragile human in the grip of something large, impersonal and unpredictably violent is appealing – it reminds me I’m alive, and challenges me to survive. I’ve been caught in a red-hot dust storm on the Lincolnshire Fens, a frightening and unusual experience in theUK. There’s no shelter for miles on these expansive flat fields, and when the sirocco comes in, fromArabiathey say, it tears through your skin and leave behind a fine dust.

Once, I was walking with a friend to Dolgellau over the foothills of Cadair Idris inNorth Wales. This is an area that demands respect. I worked in the Youth Hostel nearby, and more than once the Mountain Rescue were called out for people who’d wanted to test the story that if you survived a night on Cadair Idris, you’d return a poet – or mad. As we reached the highest point of my journey, a sudden and torrential downpour opened up. We were instantly soaked, and found ourselves buffeted from rock to rock, and my friend launched into the most extraordinary one-man recital of King Lear. It seemed the most appropriate thing to do.

Maybe it’s about The Wild Hunt. When the clouds are being thrown across the sky in a boiling mass of shifting, forming, re-forming grey and black and white and yellow, it’s very easy to see the riders pass overhead, the hounds of Annwn with their red ears and eyes, Hereward – my local folk hero – riding with them.

Maybe it’s more mundane. It is true that I enjoy the storm because I know it will end. It’s a safe danger, for all I talk of violence and mortality. I’m not too likely to be hit by lightning or swept up into the clouds to ride with Arawn. I know that there’s only so wet a person can get, and within a few hours I’ll be at home, bathed, warmed, snug and secure.

Right now the storm is rising in me, and I’m putting my fell-running shoes on.

The song I quote is called a & b. Check it out on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Xtk5BzVpw. More of my day to day blog at http://autumnbarlow.wordpress.com