Monday, 9 July 2018

Handling the Critics

On a serious note, I am about to lead you down a dark path. If you don't want down this rabbit hole, now is the time to turn back.
When you create anything, be it a painting, a poem, a ballad, a story, or a child, you will expect people to have opinions about it. The more unsure of themselves they are, the more opinions they will have about what you should be doing with your creation and by extension your life.
Beyonce makes art about her marriage and everyone feels they have the right to comment on whether she stays married to Jay-Z or not.
There is a saying about giving someone an inch and they take a mile.
When you give the world a part of yourself, the result is apparently that they think they own you. That their opinion of you is valid.
It's not.
That's exactly why Rihanna will never claim Hassan in public. She ain't giving you nothin' to speculate about. It must be frustrating for all those so-called fans who spent their lives stalking the lives and Instagrams of any man she was associated with looking for transgressions.
The creator creates. They disseminate that creation into the universe. Recipients of that art consume it. They react to it however they do. That reaction belongs to them. It is none of the creator's business. The converse is also true. As a fan, you have no say over an artist's life or their work. You can accept the art, reject it, vilify it, worship it; but that doesn't mean you get to tell the artist what to do next.
Well...that wasn't as dark as I thought it would be.
"Where is all this coming from Annemarie?" You ask.
Well, since you asked...
I received a comment on one of my old stories on AO3. It was a question of geography. I - apparently - placed Mt. Rushmore in the Grand Canyon and this reader was very upset about it. Now when I say this is an old story...I mean years. So I wasn't really sure what the hell they were talking about. I do not recall in all my years of living, ever typing the words Mt. Rushmore.
"So Annemarie, why didn't you just read over the chapter and find out what they were talking about?"
"Well, because I'm busy and is it that serious?"
I always ask myself when I get a comment about some factoid in my story that someone says is wrong. My question is, "Does this factoid in any way change the direction or message of the story?"
(I have gotten a comment about factoids one other time about In the Shadow of the Styx. They were annoyed at the use of the word Styx in the title and also the appearance of Hitler in the story...never mind).
If the answer is no, then why am I scrambling around bending over backward for a person I've never met so that their hang-ups can be satisfied? People always want to tell you what to do. I stopped listening long ago.
Anyway, so I just thanked the person for their comment and geography lesson and kept it moving.
Then I get another comment on a different chapter from the same person. Apparently now there is a problem with the number of states. Again, I have no idea what they're talking about. I love this story. I know how it goes generally. The fact that I can't remember these details means they are less than irrelevant to the story. Anyway, her new problem with me was that not knowing these factoids indicated to her that I wasn't an American and that was jarring to her otherwise enjoyable reading experience...
Well, one comment...okay. Two is asking for trouble.
I told her that yes, I was not an American, she was right about that. Would she please go away and leave my fic alone?
A diplomatic answer? No.
But I kept it all the way real like you're advised not to do with readers. Don't respond or be polite. I think I was rudely polite. I said please. And thanks.
I think I've said it before; I don't understand the concept of letting people badmouth your work ad infinitum. I get that some people won't like it, and that's just great. We're not avocado after all - not everybody's gonna like you. But idiocy such as this above, can swallow the irritation and let it give you ulcers or you can clap back and defend yourself.
When it comes to my creations; my son, and my books, you better be sure I will say something. I don't care who's right and who's wrong; you come for mine, be prepared to defend your position as vigorously as I will defend mine. That's why I look like a twenty-year-old with artfully greying hair. I don't let bitterness eat me up from inside. I let it out.
I'm not telling you to do what I do. I'm saying do you, regardless of what 'the experts' say.

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