The movie/book, The Princess Bride, has an excellent quote: “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” There is great wisdom in these few words.
I will never be a big-time author, and I accepted this fate before I started writing, but I strive to be my best. The few people who have read my work have been kind with their sentiments, but there have been critics. The first negative review stated 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 is called a book and not a rainbow!”
I moped for a week and came to understand the issue. At my core, I am an engineer, not an artist full of flowery words. My descriptions were meticulous and constructed with care. I am improving at flowering things up, but I have a long way to go. I mean a long journey of discovery and breakthroughs. No, wait, I can do better…
Let’s create a simple example of this issue. “The man walked into the room.” This simple statement evokes little in the reader’s eyes, but it was good enough for me. Here is a better description, “Bob noticed a man enter the room. He stood five-foot-eight with blond hair and was dressed in a trim blue suit. He had deep intent while scanning the assembled people. Bob became worried when the man did not recognize anybody, but there was little he could do about it.” Much better.
Because this was my first work, I should have expected some pain because there will always be haters. Otherwise, everybody would write books. As an engineer, I understand negative feedback is more important than positive.
It takes effort to be negative. For example, I could immediately write ten compliments about the television show Rick and Morty. That effort would be easy and fun, which is the definition of a positive experience. But what would those compliments tell a person who has never seen the show? I appreciate Rick and Morty. What do the creators gain by reading my compliments? My positive words would not help them improve their work but would provide a warm feeling and perhaps the drive to continue.
Let’s look at a recent real-life example. I started watching the Liam Neeson movie, The Commuter, but could not enjoy the story. Maybe it was my mood, or I had no interest in watching a drama. After fifteen minutes, I stopped watching and gave it two out of five stars on Netflix.
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? The Commuter needed a shorter beginning to pull the viewers into the action. This plot was farfetched, and there needed to be a better reason for Liam Neeson’s character to overcome his good morals. The outside mystery person was distracting and should be eliminated.
Wait a minute. I trashed a movie that hundreds of people had worked hard on. My flippant statements were all based on watching a film for fifteen minutes. Do I feel good about trashing their movie? No, that’s not my personality. The world already has too much negativity without me adding more hate. While my comments were honest and intended to be constructive, I would never post them.
Now, hold on, Mr. Wonderful. I have written three bad reviews on Netflix. 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 went to the theater on opening day to watch it with my father. Half the audience had left by the end of the movie, and the remaining viewers loudly spoke of how bad the movie was.
This movie was two vastly different movies slammed together. An awful poetry exploration combined with a WWII action-drama. I was so angry about wasting money that I took the time to write a scathing review and went out of my way to tell four friends not to see it.
Did that angry review make me feel better? Absolutely because I knew my words might help somebody skip renting this awful movie. Let me be clear. I intended to tell people I had never met not 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 think about me? They should be proud to be part of a famous movie and ignore a bug like me. “That guy is a jerk and did not know anything about my great movie.”
But then, the creators would have to wonder if the hater had a point. Eventually, they would realize that this criticism pointed out flaws. In time, the creators would appreciate the negative words. Yes, the pain would sting, forcing them to try harder on their next film.
I recall a scathing criticism of my favorite band Rush, “tragically un-hip.” Why would a person write this derogatory comment? I guess they wanted to lift themselves. Rush used that brash statement as a badge of honor.
I need to do the same, vow to have ticker skin and value negative comments. This undertaking will be a painful pill to swallow. So, bring it. Trash my work if you dare. I will overcome.
You’re the best -Bill
May 22, 2018 Updated May 06, 2023
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