Pity the poor critical content writer.
Damned if they do and damned if they don’t, the only certainty in delivering freelance writing services that critique anything at all, is that the criticism itself will come under fire from every angle.
Dancing About Architecture
Nowhere is this more true than the entertainment industry, in which every piece or performance is subjective, leaving the hapless critic with only his or her experienced opinion to defend against the inevitable barrage of fanatical feedback.
If you think the free tickets and celebrity hobnobbing make up for these woes, well, you’d be correct. But let’s not allow that to stop us mounting a staunch defense of a professional endeavor that’s been likened to “dancing about architecture.”
The quotation itself is tough to pin down, but its intent is not: entertainment writing is a mildly diverting pursuit but the results are essentially useless.
So, critics of critics… wanna dance?
More Than an Entertainment Industry
Writing about entertainment is much more than blindly praising performers that the writer likes, or antagonizing artists that they don’t.
At its best, critical observation of art not only communicates the value of the creator’s work, it fills the gaps in audience knowledge with meaning and insight. A good entertainment writer can tell you why a performance was good or bad. A great one can explain the same thing in the context of the creator’s entire oeuvre, their genre, and the wider artistic value of their field.
Beyond that, the very best critics are able to make writing about art an art form in its own right. From the early days of Oscar Wilde’s “artist as critic,” to the golden age of rock and roll writers like Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus, some criticism has the ability even to outshine the art on which it seeks to put the spotlight.
Become a Better Entertainment Writer
With such a spectrum established, how does an aspiring entertainment content writer reach the upper echelons?
Consider these hallmarks of the best critical art writers:
- Provide context – No one performance or piece or work can be removed from the wider experience of the artist’s work. Similarly, no good critique should be without some discussion of that context.
- Disinterested, not dispassionate – Be rationally passionate. Neutrality rarely leads to an interesting read, but good criticism should come from a base of facts and fairness.
- Personality – The one unique factor when every critic is reviewing the same thing is the person writing the piece. Finding a voice means finding a style, and finding a style means standing out.
- Knowledge is power – Great writing begins with research. When the reader feels that the writer has impeccable knowledge of his or her subject, it lends extra authority to any criticism.
Watching a dance about architecture would, at the very least, be an entertaining few minutes out of the day. Entertainment writing, above all else, should entertain.
Perhaps that quote isn’t so critical after all.
Steve B is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant who lives in Brooklyn, hails from England, and harbors a secret scribe’s crush on Paris. Although he believes in the life-changing potential of rock music, he fears that purchasing Limp Bizkit CDs as a teen precludes him from commenting critically on the genre.