- Posted by Johanna on November 17, 2006 at 4:26 pm
- Category: LinkBlogging
In response to Kevin’s comments about how creators should respond to criticism, Rikki Simons (creator of ShutterBox) has posted a response that demonstrates his … I’d call it misunderstanding, he’d probably call it disagreement with a number of the points.
First he says that a restricted (non-public) friends list is the same as a public blog and website. Since he has a livejournal himself, I don’t know whether he really is confused or just trying to score a rhetorical point. Simons goes on to insist that critics aren’t willing to play by the same rules they want creators to follow.
I think they’re often just full of themselves. Critics, take your lumps, just like we do. You cannot post a review to a blog with a comments section turned on or your e-mail made public without expecting to hear from the author if they disagree with you. Your review is not any more immune from recrimination than an author’s books are. For the angry author, this probably falls under the heading “if I want to make an ass out of myself that’s my business” but if we’re at least respecting point two for the critic then the least the critic can do is the same when the author takes them on (politely). We also cannot control what our fans will say when they read your review. In some cases when the author links to your review they are inciting a riot, but if the author just blew a year of their life on a work, fatigued, bent in real starvation, and the reviewer spent an hour reviewing after getting free swag, then you as a critic should forgive this reaction. It’s called human nature and professionalism is irrelevant (and usually just wishful thinking on the part of the would-be critic).
If that’s what he thinks of his fellow artists, I’m tempted to be insulted on their behalf. In my nearly decade-and-a-half doing this, I have worked with plenty of creators who are capable of disagreeing publicly and politely, which is what I mean by professionalism in this case. I don’t believe that dealing with each other with mutual respect is “wishful thinking”.
And critics are very used to the same thing. Heck, many of us started in forums where we got nothing but attacks and negative feedback. That’s why some of us deeply understand the difference between a professional response and immature whining.
EVERYONE picks on critics, and many of us welcome the feedback. That’s why we do this, to communicate with an audience about books we love, or hate, or want to talk about. NO ONE is asking for creators to be quiet. We’re asking for authors to be mature. Collecting a bunch of other creators for a public-but-gated “don’t critics suck?” session is not mature. Throwing an online hissy fit because someone didn’t completely love your first book, not mature. Using your book as a bully pulpit because that’s a place you can’t be contradicted, or berating someone from a panel where you have a loud voice and they don’t, not mature.
Gathering alternate opinions, though, is mature. So is making sure you understand the critic’s point (and viewpoint behind the point). Pointing out an error the critic made, politely, is welcome. Ignoring them, fine. Just be consistent about it. If you tend to get too caught up in what other people think, saying “I don’t read reviews” is a sensible strategy… but that means all reviews. Only listening to people who praise you is a recipe for disaster.
Creators can too control some of what their fans say. Especially if they avoid posting things like “this review is so wrong! you should go tell them so!” to their message boards. And whatever happened to setting a good example? (I tend to believe that some creators get the fans they deserve.)
In a twisted way, I like the idea that critics should be the bigger people because they sometimes get books for free. It’s so opposite from the usual “we create from the blank page, so we’re gods, and you’re parasites on our work, so you suck” that some artists toss out.
I think Simons has also misunderstood why critics are saying this to creators. It’s not to avoid recrimination, as he says; it’s to help artists. How you react is going to affect how people view your work. An immature blowup may keep you from getting press and attention in future. It may cause people to spread rumors about you or avoid buying your next title. Is that worth the temporary passion?