Overcoming Critics
In the movie/book, The Princess Bride, there is a great quote, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” There is much wisdom in these words. Like all great quotes, there is more than one interoperation and more than one lesson.
The truth is that I will probably never be a big-time author. I accepted this fate long before I started writing. That is not to say that I will not strive to be my best, but rather, I know the reality of the situation. With this knowledge, I put aside my self-doubts and self-published a book that I worked really hard on. In doing so, I learned a lot and I felt that the experience has helped in many ways. I also have enjoyed the experience. The few people who have read my work been kind with their sentiments, but a few haven’t. Their criticism was simple. I was too descriptive. I immediately wanted to yell, “What does that mean!!!” How can a book be too descriptive? The point of a book is to describe something. That’s why it’s called a book and not a rainbow!
I moped for a week and eventually got out of my negative funk. I accepted responsibility for my failings and agreed with their assessment. At my core, I’m an Engineer. I’m not an artist who is full of flowery words. I’m meticulous and my descriptions are precise. Simply put, when I write, there are no extra words. But then I go back over my work several times and try to flower it up as much as I can. An example of an initial attempt is, “The man walked into the room.” Clearly, this simple statement is boring and it evokes little in the reader’s eyes. However, it is a perfect description of what is occurring at that exact moment. With a lot of effort, my words evolved, “Bob noticed a man enter the room. He was approximately 5” 8” tall with blond hair and smartly dressed. It was clear that this man had a lot of intent as he scanned the assembled people. The fact that the man didn’t seem to recognize anybody worried Bob, but there was little he could do about it.” Wow, much better. Yet it still reads like an Engineer might have written it. Sorry. Best I can do.
Even with all my effort, comments from my beta reader (Mom) and updates from editors, I still got complaints after it was published. Honestly, they really hurt. Granted, I should have expected some pain. Haters have to hate, but that’s not the real story. This was my first work and there was bound to be a painful learning curve. Otherwise, everybody would be writing books. Being a logical person, I had planned for a learning process and only released 1 of 3 books that I had written. I wanted to test the waters and see what it was like to publish.
As an Engineer, I always had known that negative feedback is more important than positive. It takes more energy to be negative. For example, I could immediately give 10 compliments about the show Rick and Morty. That effort would be easy and fun. This is the definition of a positive experience. What would those compliments tell you? Obviously, I appreciate Rick and Morty. While my compliments are nice, they would only confirm that I am a fan of the show and that information would mean little. What do the creators of Rick and Morty gain by reading my compliments? My words wouldn’t help them improve their work other than to give them a warm feeling and perhaps the drive to continue.
Alright, let me try to be mean. Recently, I started to watch the Liam Neeson movie, “The Commuter” on Netflix DVD. I just couldn’t get into the story. Maybe it was the mood I was in or that I just was not into that kind of story. After 15 minutes, had had enough, I ejected the DVD and gave it 2 out of 5 stars on the Netflix site.
So, Mr. Negative. What feedback would I give the writers of The Commuter? How can I crush their dreams? Send some negative waves their way? Alright, challenge accepted. The Commuter should have been edited to shorten the beginning. This would allow viewers to get to the action scenes faster. Secondly, this plot was farfetched. There needed to be a better reason for Liam Neeson’s character to overcome his good morals. The outside mystery person influence was distracting to the overall plot and the result was a frustrated viewer.
How unfair was that? I just trashed a movie that hundreds of people put a lot of effort into. My flippant statements were all based on watching a movie for 15 minutes. Do I feel good about trashing their movie? No. Why? That’s not my personality. I don’t like to be a hater and it’s not good karma. There is already too much negativity in the world without me filling the Internet up with more. I felt my comments were honest and were intended to be constructive, but I would never post them on Netflix.
Now, hold on Mr. Wonderful. I have written a few reviews on Netflix and one was really bad. I completely trashed the movie, “The Thin Red Line.” I called my review, “Yentl meets Hamburger Hill.” Funny. Right? Why was I so cruel? I was looking forward to The Thin Red Line and I went to the theater opening day to watch it with my father. By the end of the movie, half the audience had left and the ones that remained loudly spoke of how bad the movie was. To me, it was two vastly different movies slammed together. One was an awful poetry movie and the other was a so-so WWII action-drama. The result made me upset over how much time I had wasted. I was so angry, that I took the time to write a scathing review on Netflix. I went even further to tell 4 of my friends not to see The Thin Red Line under any circumstances. They ignored my sound advice and 2 out of the 4 actually liked it.
Did that angry review make me feel a bit better? Absolutely. My venting made me feel much better and this relieved some of the pain of paying for this movie in the theater. The knowledge that my words might help somebody skip renting this awful movie is a good feeling. Let me be clear. It was my direct intent to tell others [people I had never even met!] never to watch The Thin Red Line. That is the very definition of hate.
Going full circle. What would the people involved in The Thin Red Line and The Commuter feel about me? As I read my own insults, I am beginning to wonder. I think that if I were them, I would be proud that I was part of a movie that many people know about. How would I feel about a person mocking my movie with the words, “Yentl meets Hamburger Hill?” I would probably think that this person was being mean and had no real knowledge of my great movie.
But then, I would have to take a step back and wonder if that person had a point. Eventually, I would realize that this mean critic indeed had a valid point. In time, I would realize that I should be grateful for their negative words. Yes, the pain would sting (really badly) and it would force me to try much harder. I recall a scathing criticism of my favorite band Rush. The critics call them, “tragically un-hip.” What would a person write such an unfair statement? Rush used that statement as a badge of honor. I guess that is what I need to do. So, bring it. Call me out and trash my work. All I can say is that I’m trying my best and I will continue to try my best even if I am being too descriptive.
You’re the best -Bill
May 22, 2018
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