Thursday, January 24, 2008

On Criticism

This isn't about me (though since I am an egotist it will naturally come back to me). I have just seen some statements and attitudes repeated from different sources online in the past few days. While I'm under no delusion that griping about it here will make one bit of difference what is a blog for if you don't gripe into the wind.

These attitudes come down to one thing: all criticism is meaningless. Not just random stranger on the internet shouting "U sUX!1!" or the person whose opinion is built off of some wildly incorrect facts but the whole thing. Not that the people expressing these opinions actually come out and say that but it is what their opinions come down to. So I have a few points to keep in mind.

The act of creation is not worthy of praise in and of itself. You may be proud of fanfic but the fact that you squirted out statements onto paper doesn't deserve a pat on the head. I could hold a gun to the head of any person in the United States and demand that they write a piece of fiction based on their favorite television show and get something close in quality to the vast majority of fanfiction out there (perhaps with a few more "Help! Help! A maniac is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to write slash!" statements in the middle). Most people have self-censors that recognize the lack of quality in them and just not do it. Being able to overpower that self-censor is not necessarily a good thing.

So naturally someone eventually reacts with, "Oh boy did that suck. On every technical and artistic level that I could describe it sucked. Anyone to whom it is not immediately obvious that this sucked lacks even the basic building blocks of taste." The response to this tends to be one of saying that just by completing and putting their work on the web that it is worthy of praise. While our unnamed critic (who on the Internet is more likely to abbreviate that statement to "WTFFF!!!") isn't particularly helpful just the statement that it isn't liked is something. A few dozen responses like that should trigger introspection not a demand for pity.

Want the fastest route to not improve? Don't engage in any self-exploration and place yourself in an environment where regardless of what you do you just get praise. Even if you start out taking a hard look at your work getting told over and over again that it was good erodes that and before long you're trapped and your creative work will never get better. You can't swing a dead cat on the internet without hitting someone that this has happened to and in fan produced derivative works (fiction or otherwise) it is especially prevalent.

The corollary to this is everyone's favorite statement "Well where's the one that you did?" It would be nice to think that anyone over the age of ten could know why this isn't a valid response to criticism but I see it over and over again from people who claim to be adults. If you can't work out that understanding and creating are two separate processes then there's no hope for you.