Bad Reviews

My topic of discussion today is a sensitive issue for writers: bad reviews.

The nature of creative expression is in itself quite slippery. We can’t really define what makes something good or bad. We can often describe characteristics of a good and bad things, but we fail to completely capture the “formula”, if yuo will. In fact, he line between good and bad is sometimes nearly impossible to discern. Often very good and very bad can be nearly interchangeable.

Not much comfort for van Gogh, I’m afraid. Good news for 50 Shades of Grey and Rebecca Black.

As I wrote in a previous post, we writers generally have to be made of sturdy stuff. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt to be lambasted with words, it’s more that — as with a bad song you keep hearing on the radio — frequent exposure creates a kind of familiarity. Eventually, grim and haggard, the writer starts to gain a kind of perverse enjoyment out of being hated and reviled. His thesaurus disgorges asperse, traduce, calumniate and more. He keeps coming back for more. It reinforces that excellent feeling of being “The Outsider” that augments the narrative process.

More importantly, the bad review often tells a far more interesting story than a good one. Don’t you hate those people who can never criticize anything because they’ve been trained by society to be so pitifully nice? Sometimes an appropriate cry of “fatso” is just the thing a child needs to motivate himself to start losing weight, rather than some dreadful encouragement from cake-wielding parents.

There is no inner beauty in being diabetic. Don’t tell your kid it’s OK. I might not be a parent, but as “The Outsider”, I sure do know better.

The point is, fire that missile. Take aim and annihilate. Dialogue, characterization, plot, anything and everything is a legitimate target. Don’t spare my feelings. Your sweet encouragement is making me diabetic. Give me some ugly truth. Give me some hateful subjective opinions. They could really help me see my work in a new light.

As much as I will not enjoy it, I want you to fire that missile. The only important thing I would like to specify is this: please do take aim.

Here’s an example: if you thought this post stank, a comment like “this post is shit” would not accomplish much. A comment like “this post was rambling and sanctimonious” would be a lot more valuable.

So, critics of the world, I address you: when you contemplate your scalding comment, I ask that you remember not to swing wildly at me. Hit me where it hurts. Our relationship might be a bit sick and co-dependent, but I would really like it to be meaningful.


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