Bad Reviews 04/18/21

Yet another author is in trouble for engaging with their audience. In this case, they went off because someone gave them a 4-star review instead of a 5. I understand where this author is coming from: my mother coddled me, too. When you’ve spent years dunking on conservatives on Twitter (literally the easiest possible career one could think to have) and getting truckloads of dopamine dumped into your brainpan, it can hurt a little bit to find out that some people might not think you’re the greatest to ever do it. I mean, this is an essay collection we’re talking about.

I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for this writer, who now has hundreds, possibly thousands of one-star reviews on Goodreads. Don’t fuck with fandoms. Haven’t they heard of K-pop stans?

The author blamed their behavior on drugs. Here’s a tip: don’t do them! We didn’t forgive Roseanne when she called that lady an ape while absolutely twisted on Ambien (and that shit will actually put you in the shadow world), and we should hold potheads to the same standard. I thought pot mellowed people out? It has always made me paranoid, but I have never gone on a career-damaging internet tirade because of it (that’s booze). The author went on to delete the post, talk about how their dreams were being crushed, how the book was their “soul,” etc., further solidifying Twitter as a medium that privileges theater kids exclusively.

Remember when every crime writer was talking about how they “bleed on the page” and then you’d read their book and it would be just kind of okay? Kind of completely inverting the idea that you’re supposed to take the act of creation absolutely seriously, but nothing after that.

Anyway, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t care what people think.

Let’s say you’re having friends over for dinner. You think to yourself, What are some foods that everyone likes? Pizza. Yeah, that’s it. Everyone likes pizza. You might consider whether anyone in attendance is veggie. You might even take gluten/dairy intolerance into consideration. But there’s no accounting for taste.

Not everyone is going to like that pizza, and if they do, it won’t be to the same degree. It’s impossible to make a pizza that everyone likes.

Well, almost impossible.

So it is with creating art. It goes without saying. It is advice as old as time. You do not get angry at reviews (at least not in public). You certainly do not trash reviewers (at least not in public). You move through this facet of your life completely stoically. Because everybody’s not going to like your pizza.

When you write a book, you’re going to make decisions. You sort of have to. That’s how books get written. Once those decisions are made, locked in, you are necessarily alienating and pleasing different people at the same time. Art itself is meant to cleave in this way, to create streams of thought and opinion mixed in with the hundreds of different feelings it can evoke. This is what art does. It’s a generator.

Art inspires people to become saints and it inspires mass shooters. That’s something I’ve never understood about folks who say violent art/video games don’t inspire people to become violent. No no no…they don’t inspire most people to become violent. But that is an unfortunate side effect of creation. On the other hand, someone who’s about to kill themselves may step down off that ledge because they had their brain melted over two hours of Transformers, just long enough to let the darkest of the dark cloud pass. Many such cases.

My point here is that you can’t allow the opinions of others to affect you when it comes to your books. No, it’s not that simple, actually. I’ve been saying this for years and I still found myself getting pissy over my books being called “little more than screenplays” or, more than once, “the worst piece of shit [they’ve] ever read.” Trying to wave it off and pretend like it doesn’t bother you might not be active enough.

Maybe you should court that kind of attention. Maybe there’s a balance you can strike, where you are simultaneously trying to make the coolest thing you can make and trying to drive the haters crazy at the same time?

I think these are symbiotic ideas, honestly, and here’s why: if they hate what you think is cool, it should follow that really, really making them hate your next thing will, by default, prove that what you’ve done is actually really, really cool.

We need to get some intestinal fortitude if we’re gonna make it. We need to get a little discipline. But most importantly: we must never, ever smoke weed.

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