Let’s be honest. No one likes criticism or being “judged,” especially creators, but it’s a necessary evil. First, constructive feedback is essential for improving your craft. Second, these critics/reviewers/editors serve as gatekeepers of quality. This is essential for allowing the best works to rise to the top and be eventually recognized.
Don’t quite believe me? Let’s take a look at a world of (almost) limitless freedom. I was on FanFiction.net the other day for the first time, and I marveled at the overwhelming burst of creativity and enthusiasm there. There are literally thousands of stories in dozens of categories. Great! I thought. There must be some fantastic works here…how do I find them? Ah, that’s the problem. You can review an individual work, but there doesn’t appear to be any sort of ranking system or “editor’s choice.” Hardened veterans might be used to slogging through hundreds of nondescript stories in order to find that hidden gem, but what about the neophytes or casual readers? Most just won’t bother to read at all.
So while unadulterated freedom sounds good to creators, it’s not the utopia it promises to be. After you’re done cursing a critic for a bad review next time, stop and think about this for a second. The review system isn’t perfect (regrettably, some reviewers are malicious or have agendas), but when it does its job well, the creators ultimately benefit.