But not everyone is a critic.
I recently attended Jazz Fest in New Orleans and got to spend an evening with one of my very best friends. We talked about our days in college, how our families were doing now and of course where we were going ourselves.
I had to sigh when it was my turn…I hadn’t been writing the way that I once did. When my friend asked why. I had to tell him about my fears.
Bad reviews. I became obsessed with them. I read them over and over again until I believed everything in them.
I didn’t know what it took to write a short story.
I didn’t describe characters to the point that reader’s could see them.
There was no merit to anything that I’d ever published.
So? I have a lot to overcome to reach my goals for the year. And part of the reason that I’m pushing harder than I’ve ever done are the sage words from my friend.
He said that I had to remember that everyone has a right to his or her opinion but not everyone is a critic.
And I had to look that word up.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, a critic is “one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique”
My friend’s thought was that a reasoned opinion in regards to a novel meant that the critic measured a single work against an art form.
An art form. Not a favorite writer.
And he asked me if every bad review that I’d received was from someone who was upholding the aesthetics of the art form or from someone who was expressing an opinion?
I don’t know, I answered.
Then you have to keep writing until there are no more stories left for you to tell, he said.
And, readers, a Conundrum, is an excellent wine!
Have you ever had a hankering for tacos/nachos, only to go to your cabinet and not find any taco seasoning? That’s happened to me on more than one occasion and I’m always looking for the best homemade seasoning I can find. Here’s one that I tried and liked. I warn ya though, it’s a tad spicy. 🙂
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small airtight container. This provides enough seasoning for one pound of meat.
It’s here. It took me a while but I got ‘er done. Prowl is on Amazon. It’s Ari’s turn to feel the heat of mating.
Aristotle Kuhne laughed as he watched his brother’s succumb to matings. Now it’s his turn to feel the desire only the other half of his soul can evoke. His family knows him as the fun loving comedian. Everyone is going to find out just how deadly he can be when it comes to the woman who hold his heart.
Bane Uduru was hired to do a job. She never expected to run into the one man that could stop her. She knew his claims that he was her mate were lies but the fun was in proving him wrong. After all, she was a honey badger and they really gave less than a damn about the emotions of others.
“What am I doing…”
I ask that question a lot lately, and for whatever reason I’ve gotten stuck in the pattern of answering it with Drake lyrics. There’s a lot of stuff in this business that will make you feel like you have a case of the Mondays everyday, and it will make you ask why you even bother.
“What am I doing?”
I ask myself that when I hand out ARCs no one reads. I ask that when I get passed over for NYT bestselling so-and-so. I ask that when I stare at a blinking cursor taunting me with my potential yet unfulfilled. I ask that when someone expects to read one thing from me and gets another.
And what’s my answer?
“Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me.”
It’s what I say to myself when I ask why I’m being professional in the face of unprofessionalism. It’s what I say when people expect me to write the same book over and over because they liked my first one. It’s what I say when people expect the next book to be better and different because the last one sucked in their opinion. It’s what I say when people wave me off.
I’m doing me. And what else could I expect from myself but the best I have to offer as ME. I never set out to be the most commercial of commercial successes. I published my work mostly by accident, and I wrote the stories I did because I wanted to read them. Everything else is supposed to be a cherry on top, but sometimes those cherries are so sour you ask yourself what you’re doing. What’s the point? You can’t make everyone happy, you can’t make everyone treat you the way they would treat an NYT bestseller. So what can I do?
“What am I doing?”
I’m writing. I’m writing for me and sharing with people in the hopes they will like it. I’m keeping track of the people who do what they say they’ll do, regardless of if I’m on someone’s list. I’m staying grateful for those that like my work and tell me so, for those that show support and put the word out there. I’m grateful I have plenty of stories in me to write, and I’m going to put them all out there. I’m carving out a place for myself and doing me, getting better, and reminding myself that I’m doing what makes me happy. I’m doing me.
“And this what I’ma do till it’s over. Till it’s over.
But it’s far from over…”
I recently joined Romance Writers of America. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to really investigate all it has to offer but I was able to find a critique partner so that’s a plus right there.
I also attended a chapter meeting and got some great ideas. It was at the meeting that I learned about The End Challenge. It’s a little like NaNoWriMo except you have a year to complete and it doesn’t have to be 50,000 words. You pick your word count and commit to having it completed by the end of the year.
While I found this to be motivational and quickly signed myself up, several writers in the meeting seemed a little miffed about it. They believe that this will soon become a requirement for membership. One writer even saw it as a way to keep non-fulltime writers out of the organization.
I don’t know enough yet to respond but it is interesting. Could this tool be used to exclude those who haven’t finished a project? Or is as I imagine – a tool to motivate and evaluate? If I can’t finish this 30,000 word project in a year then it is time to evaluate why? It is time management or is my heart just not into it anymore?
I love a good conspiracy theory so I laughed along with a writer who said that the RWA wasn’t going to require Nora Roberts to complete The End Challenge. Probably not, but she’ll get a book out anyway.
For those who’ve been in the RWA for a while, let me know what you think about The End Challenge???
Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences. That solves a lot of problems. Art is something that happens, a process, not a quality, and all sorts of things can make it happen … [W]hat makes a work of art ‘good’ for you is not something that is already ‘inside’ it, but something that happens inside you. ~ Brian Eno
I was mulling over this quote, and while I find that every “this is what writing/art is” quote lacks something, I’ve determined that I like it. I like that it treats the process of creating and taking in a creation as something that is neither right nor wrong. It’s wholly personal and yet we share it with each other. Even if others agree, at the end of the day it’s all about the process of taking in or discarding something we were engaged with. We have our individual criteria for what makes a piece of art successful, right, good, and in the end, even if it’s none of those things we can still love it.
A funny parallel came up when I was trying to find something to write about for this post. This article about Empire Records, it’s influence, and it’s 20th anniversary came up on my Tumblr and hit me right in the heart.
Empire Records is one of my favorite films. It is by no means perfect. It was a box office flop, it has the same narrow lens that The Breakfast Club did (one put upon adult and a bunch of teenagers with baggage), and some of its music is better known than the film itself. And yet I know every word. I love it and when it comes on, I don’t care if it’s the opening credits or the final shot on the rooftop, I will stay there and relive a piece of myself until it fades to black.
Funny thing is, I’m not alone. Despite it’s inability to snare its target audience in a theater in 1995, Empire Records just celebrated its 20th anniversary with a big screening in L.A.
So how does a box office flop, one that director Allan Moyle once thought was the biggest failure of his career, become a cult classic that people all over the world love?
Who knows? Maybe it was all the love poured into it by the cast, that rag tag group that would go on to be stars in their own right, or recognizable faces on our TV screens. Maybe it was because it was an experience like no other for them in their young lives, and that made it authentic all these years later in every scene. Maybe it was time. Some art doesn’t work despite budget, talent, great music and hard work without that extra ingredient we can’t control.
What I do know is that Moyle had no idea what an impact the movie had until his cast told him he should see it at that screening 20 years later. The man who wrote off his own film as a failure, ended up saying, to quote the article, it was “the premiere Empire Records never had”. He got to see how much people loved that movie, how they knew all the words and all the songs, and how they danced to the final scene for the thousandth time, dressed up like the characters. He got to see them experience the film he loved, right, wrong, flop, success. In that moment it was all of those things and none. It was something thousands of people loved enough to share in the experience of celebrating. They were happy it existed. A failure, and yet a bright shining success.
It’s just a movie about teenagers and a record store manager fighting the inevitable tide of corporate greed. Rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of life. It was supposed to make money in the theater. It didn’t. But it did endure, and I suppose that’s the thing I took away from the quote, from the article and from my love of things considered “failures”. I suppose it’s what soothes me when the slings and arrows of bad reviews and low sales strike me.
It’s not about the right or wrong. It’s not about good or bad. We hope it’s the former and not the latter. We strive for good, we hope we’re doing this right. We put our all into it. Then we let it go. It’s about the experience, ours in creating it, and the audience’s, who will do with our work whatever they wish. Sometimes we can’t control anything but the joy of being in the moment and making something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we just have to sit back, love something, and let time do the rest.
Damn the man. Save the Empire.