same as last time

Writing is an art.

“Duh,” you say. “Shah,” I reply, to quote my favorite high school English teacher. Here’s my point. Writing is not a science. It lacks quantifiable rules and hard absolutes. We like to believe that distinguishing good writing from bad writing is obvious and universal. Hemingway and Thoreau good. Meyer and Paolini bad. You won’t find me in disagreement about those examples, but this notion of determining the quality of writing stands on shaky ground. It’s completely subjective. True, there is a craft to writing well. One needs look no further than Campbell’s monomyth, but we’re describing cross-cultural truths and themes, not laws.

I love, love the works of R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson. I think they’re exceptional writers, true masters of the craft. I aspire to shape my storytelling like theirs: non-traditional, epic in scope, rich in philosophical nuance. But a lot of people would disagree with me. Patrick Rothfuss and Christie Golden have legions of fans defending their every word, and I’ve spent a lot of time reading them too. I’m convinced they’re glorified hacks.

Damn. I’m starting to sound a little resentful, aren’t I? This isn’t the direction I want to go, so allow me to get back on track.

Writing is subjective. There.

Ultimately, only you can decide if you’re a good writer or not. (Or if your preferred author is good or not, but I’m going to focus on “you the writer,” not “you the reader.”) Only you have the power to say if your story works or not. No one has the power to tell you that your stuff is weak sauce and be right. Because writing is, pardon my language, fucking art. It’s not some geometry proof where you missed a step and messed it all up.

So… why, then, does it hit us so hard when the feedback we get isn’t the feedback we were hoping for? It’s not that we wonder if our writing sucks. Okay, it’s not only that we wonder that. It’s that we want our work to be understood. At least that’s how it is with me. In a way, yes, I’m referring to the old adage that our writing is personal and comes from our own experience. I don’t care if people think/say/write that my writing sucks. I’m confident and comfortable enough to know that it doesn’t. And I really don’t care if my writing is appreciated, because I write for me. I don’t write for validation, kudos, or Kit-Kat bars. Because in my heart, I firmly believe that writing is about communicating. And I think everyone wants to be understood.

The editor who has been working on my manuscript is very good. Excellent, even. I can clearly see in her notes that she’s intelligent, intuitive, and a skilled communicator. The work she’s put into my manuscript has been exceptional, and I would eagerly refer other writers to her. Still. I’m not sure she really understands what I’m trying to do. Or maybe she does, and my manuscript really needs a lot of work. It’s something she and I will have to discuss.

As I said in my last post, I have not been the best at identifying weaknesses in my own storytelling efforts until long after the fact. I guess it’s not so unusual to say that we writers have some blindspots when it comes to our work. But that’s not the case with my manuscript. I went into it knowing that it would lack certain elements traditionally considered essential or, at least, desirable. Telling stories in medias res requires some adjustments. The reader needs to exercise some patience and have faith that, by the end of the story, their initial questions will be satisfied in one way or another. It’s a common technique, in literature and film, but mainstream films tend to rely heavily on flashback sequences to fill in the blanks. I wasn’t going to do that, at least not in the same way I’d seen it done. My manuscript would ask more of the reader, and I’ve succeeded for the most part. Maybe too much. My editor may think so, and so maybe my blindspots persist.

I’m also hyper-critical. Of myself and others. I’m very good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) at identifying weak points in others’ stories. Camera angles look that look askew. Lighting that distracts. Acting that doesn’t convince. Dialogue that falls flat. Plot choices that strain credulity. (Yeah, all cinematic stuff. I’m a little gentler with literature.) And with my own work… well, I’m extremely nit-picky about my choices. (Not so much here in the blog, though. I work hard to stay relaxed.) I agonize over every character choice, every twist in plot. It all has great meaning. And I want to be understood.

facts aren’t truth

Tomorrow is my birthday. (Although WordPress has seen fit to date this post for tomorrow instead of today…?)

There. I said it. I never admit it when the time of year comes around, though. The whole… revelation feels awkward and like it’s fishing for compliments or something. It comes off as some form of bragging to me. I understand not everyone feels that way. It’s cool. I don’t begrudge you that. (Oddly, I have little trouble confessing to others how good of a writer I think I am, but that’s another story.)

Some people find birthdays celebratory. Others, depressing. I usually oscillate between the two, ending with some mix of both. This year, though, my birthday brings to the fore my subconscious sense of failure. Things unaccomplished that easily could’ve been if I’d tried harder. Or if I’d tried at all. Mistakes I shouldn’t have made if I’d used better judgment. Opportunities lost because I hesitated or was afraid. Emotions I lost control of and still struggle to figure out.

Just a few days ago, I was feeling good. Maybe even happy. Better than I’ve felt all year, and that’s no exaggeration. Then it all came crashing down for a reason I’d rather not get into, but suffice to say was not supposed to be terrible at all. My world tilted, and I’ve been flailing about since. To compound the problem, life at home has taken an abrupt, ugly turn and I find myself wishing I could be anywhere else but home.

I’ve struggled for weeks, for months to find the words. The words of a writer, of the writer I know I am and the writer I really really need to be. I’ve wrestled with the ever-growing fear that maybe I have nothing to say, and there’s nothing worse than a writer who writes nothing. I’m not really talking about writer’s block, either. No, this is a different creature. This is a matter of “who cares?” When I say a writer who writes nothing, I mean a writer who writes vacuousness. And I don’t mean bad writing, either. By and large, the idea of good and bad writing rests with the reader, not the writer. Only the writer can judge if what was written was worthwhile or without purpose.

I’ve struggled for weeks, for months to find or even manufacture the will to care. About myself–my health and my future. About the people who… who matter to me. I’ve fought to take hold of my life and not simply drift aimless in the deeps, to care about consequences and about rewards too, choices made and missed and decisions still to come. I’ve fractured every friendship I ever made. Through callousness, through insult and insensitivity, through simple neglect. Worse, I’ve lacked the fortitude to even try making amends. But also, I haven’t really… cared. And to care requires passion and energy and awareness and even self-love. Things I’ve only had passing contact with since before the year began.

I make no excuses. I ask for no pity or sympathy. Hell, I’m not even trying to explain anything. I’m just battling to find my words. But please, forgive my rampant use of cliché. I imagine it may cheapen the things I’m saying or cast doubt on what I’m trying to convey. Sometimes, though, we can only fall back on the words that come quickest–if no others come forward. I wanted to say something. I needed to, and it didn’t really matter how the words spilled out.

I always knew where each bad choice would lead. I wasn’t blind or ignorant. I knew I was driving myself toward solitude and alienation, toward stagnancy. I knew. And I never lost sight of the promises I made and failed to carry through–or even actively steered away from. I can offer no reasonable defense except that I didn’t care.

But I was blind to one thing.

There is no going back. There’s no return to yesteryear, to the days When Life Was Better. I can’t recapture my youth. I can never be the boy I used to be. I can’t even mourn him, because I can’t even reminisce him. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. The past is gone, and all the promise it held. What’s left is what stands here right now. And… it’s something, too. I’m someone. I can be more. It’s… it’s not too late. Is it? So much wasted. So many bridges burning. Relationships left for dead. I can’t outrun the life I’ve created, not even for a day. But I think I can still run toward the creation of something new, something I know was supposed to be. I think. Tomorrow is my birthday. That’s unavoidable. But what will it bring?

no brains allowed

This is kind of a film review… but not really. I don’t go into the particulars of the narrative. So no spoilers, either!

 

Popcorn, check. X-tra large Coke, check. Contraband M&Ms, check. Logical, critically-thinking brain–whoa. Check that at the door.

A disappointing number of blockbuster films this year have done their best to convince us that they are, in fact, good films. Transformers 4Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even Guardians of the Galaxy. (And I really wanted to love that last one.) The most I can say for any of these movies is that they aim to be fun–but senseless. Plot holes are meant to be ignored. Narrative dead ends are unimportant. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

I can enjoy spectacle. Why, just last month I loved the Fourth of July fireworks. But I can’t forgive this new wave of cinema that insists we not pay attention to the nonsensical story. Should I have expected more from Transformers 4 or TMNT? Of course not. They’re the film equivalent of cotton candy. They’re gum: sweet and diverting to chew, but utterly indigestible. I did–and rightly so–expect more from Guardians of the Galaxy, though, which is currently coasting through good reviews and word-of-mouth on a tide of nerd-love, Star Wars-ian nostalgia, Rocket Raccoon worship, bitchin’ music, and a lot of Marvel kool-aid.

None of these scripts would’ve passed muster in film school–except maybe for the obvious market appeal. Setting aside the fact that these are all franchise cogs, I am hard-pressed to think of better examples of lazy storytelling. Since the aforementioned Michael Bay efforts never had a chance of approaching a coherent narrative, I’m going to focus squarely on Guardians.

Let me be clear. I’m a Marvel fan. I’m a DC fan. I’m a comics, sci-fi, fantastical storytelling fan in general. I loved Marvel’s Phase One. I enjoy Arrow, and I even nerdgasmed over the Dark Knight trilogy. The current adoration over Guardians, however, leaves me nearly apoplectic. As a writer and as a would-be filmmaker, I’m appalled by the shortcuts James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman took. Entire character biographies were dropped in spurts of dialogue like oversized nukes. Songs from the 70s provide the emotional atmosphere, obfuscating any genuine experience we have with the story. Ironically, it’s the surprisingly entertaining character of Groot that serves as a metaphor for the entire process. For a character reduced to only using the same three words as his entire vocabulary, he conveys an impossible amount of information and intent each time he says them. In his case, it works–as a humorous conceit. In the case of the film, I find the conceit too big to swallow.

I saw the movie on opening night with a buddy of mine. I took care to notice the other people in the theater with us. Geeks, mostly, a lot like us, but with a few families and small children. Undoubtedly, the mood of an audience affects the moviegoer and vice-versa. Could it have been my bad luck, then, that those around me weren’t terribly moved by anything they saw or heard? The only time I noticed any significant emotional reaction was when a new song started. After we left, the chatter was subdued and mostly about other topics not involving the movie we’d all just seen. I turned to my buddy and noticed a small frown on his face. “I didn’t really like it,” I said. His frown deepened. “Yeah… me either,” he replied. It was like being told Santa was a lie.

I was so looking forward to Guardians. I’m no hater. And there’s a lot I liked about the film. Chris Pratt was great. Bradley Cooper was entertaining. Dave Bautista was surprisingly good, too. (I had mixed feelings about Michael Rooker, who I normally love to death.) I geeked out over the Thanos moments, brief as they were, and even Lee Pace was great to watch, although Ronan the Accuser is one of the weakest, most one-dimensional villains I’ve ever seen in any film. But the story never captured me, not from the first scene.

Obviously, it’s all subjective. One man’s masterpiece is another man’s total waste of time. 🙂

All I know is, if Avengers 2 doesn’t blow me away, I may need to take an extended break from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

TV blog extravaganza! (part 1 of 2)

So here’s the online chat Steph and I had about some of our favorite TV shows. During this discussion, we cover story arcs, characters–particularly the anti-hero, and a crapload of spoilers for the following shows: Castle, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, The Originals, Person of Interest, Psych, Revenge, and The Vampire Diaries. So… don’t read too far in if you don’t want to know some of what’s happened!

Also, we admit this is a pretty long blog post, so Steph and I split it into two parts. Read the first part below, and head over to the Vindicator Artists blog to get the rest of it!

Stephanie is in blue. I’m in red.

 

Hello, Steph!

Hello.

So I know that we had talked about doing this last week, but you had an exciting shoot to do!

Which was great for me, too, since it gave me a chance to do some last minute catch-up on some of the shows I’ve slacked on.

Yeah, it was a great shoot. Really excited about it. Martial arts film. Woo-hoo! It was great to be back on set with my film family. I’ve really missed it. I love writing and enjoy my solitude, but I’m always glad to be back on set. I really miss it when I don’t get to be on set.

That is exciting. I’m extremely jealous.

Yeah, it’s really hard, when you first get out of film school, where you were so busy with more projects and schoolwork than you could handle, and then you graduate and your classmates that you’ve been making movies with for the past three years scatter all over the country, and everyone is trying to make ends meet and still do what we love which is telling stories on screen.

Matching up content with funding is ridiculously hard. Especially in an economic environment in which nobody is really excited to invest in anything.

True. Wow, yes we could even spend a whole blog about that topic and Kickstarter, Zach Braff, Spike Lee, and Veronica Mars and what it means for indie filmmakers like us. And maybe we’ll do that, too! But this evening we’re going to focus on television–a topic which as you know, Steph, is near and dear to my heart. Much more, in fact, than feature filmmaking.

Did you ever see Veronica Mars when it was on TV?

No.

I saw an advertisement at Walmart and got it confused with Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent series.

That was my bad.

Huh. Yeah. No. Totally different… everything. I’ll spare you my opinion of Veronica Roth and her trilogy, though.

That’s what I get for staying too much in my writer’s solitude. I have no idea with what’s going on with the rest of the world that I’m supposed to be writing about.

We need to boost your television literacy!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

But it’s funny, since when you and I first talked about doing this dual blog thing, we discussed what shows we watched.

About how many shows did you say you watch? Religiously?

I watch about eleven throughout the year. Some of them have short seasons.

And I spend time catching up on some shows on Netflix.

For example, I just finished Dr. Who episodes that are available on Netflix. Picked up the first season of Fringe and working on fourth season of Sons of Anarchy.

And a couple of episodes of Into the Universe with Steven Hawking.

Ahh. So you like a little education with your entertainment.

Yes.

It makes me feel better for the hours I spend, haha.

Well, I remember I started listing off the shows that I watch, and then we discovered that I may watch a lot of TV. Maybe more than is healthy for a sane human being.

At the close of this spring season and as we head into summer, I watch about forty-eight shows, of which thirty-seven will be continuing sometime next fall, winter, or spring.

And it never really seemed like a lot to me, but apparently I’m a couch potato/TV junkie.

Let’s be clear, though. I don’t have a problem. 🙂

Haha.

I just think there’s a ton of great content out there now. In fact, I daresay that television is the place to be if you want to write, create, produce, or even act really compelling stuff.

Exactly. I mean, I’m not diminishing film at all. I still enjoy the big summer spectacle and the Oscar darling. What I mean is that TV was once considered a stepping stone toward a film career, but I’d say it’s really become part of the cultural consciousness just as much as features, maybe even more. You’ve got Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, True Detective.

Yeah, I still love movies, but I think in television you have a greater opportunity to develop long character arcs and develop more subplots and have more of an ensemble of compelling characters than even franchise films where you only get the audience for two hours a year or every other year.

It seems like communities are built around TV shows more so than films that have a few weeks in the theater, and then in a few months they are out on DVD and there are so many choices on Redbox and Netflix that it’s hard for a film that doesn’t have a community behind it to compete with the other content.

I think Marvel is trying to fix that for themselves, but they are having to spend so much money to pull it off and so much depends on the audience keeping interest in superheroes.

That said, I would be heartbroken if I didn’t get to go to the movies.

I might feel that way, too, if I hadn’t spent almost two years working at a movie theater. That almost killed my love for films. But you’re definitely onto something, pointing out TV’s ability to do longer story arcs, to really build and deconstruct fascinating characters. I feel like this TV season has been especially brutal, though, to some of our favorite characters. What do you think about that?

Brutal, downright cruel. I understand the need to up the ante to maintain audience interest, but I don’t know. I think some of the shows have pulled out too many stops.

At this point, I’d like to warn the readers that we will be diving into some of the specifics of this past season’s TV shows.

So… SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned.

I know that you watch more than a few shows I haven’t really gotten into, Steph. Any particularly painful moments you’d like to share/relive? 🙂

I have been dying to talk to someone about The Vampire Diaries!!

I have to emphasize the word dying.

Alright. I’ll be honest. I have not been keeping up with that show this season. But I did read some articles a couple days ago and essentially spoiled myself. Go ahead.

Depending on whether or not Damon is actually dead or not, I am either really excited to see how they are going to bring him back or I am ready to burn down the studio which is in Georgia, so not too far from my clutches.

Don’t get me wrong. I like most of the characters but there is no way Enzo can replace Damon.

You little pyro. So are you saying you didn’t see this coming?

I had heard that Damon dies in one of the books, but I never dreamed they would write him off, so I’m assuming there is a way to bring him back from the “dead” or “undead dead.”

I don’t think the show would survive without Damon.

If they were wanting me to totally believe that Damon was really dead, I don’t believe it.

It seems to be the curse of the onscreen/offscreen romance. But you seem to think they didn’t actually kill him… permanently. Which is already weird to say, since he plays a vampire on the show.

Well, they’ve been building toward Damon accepting the ultimate act of heroism which is to die to save everyone else, but he was acting under the belief that Bonnie could bring him back. So I knew that when he went to the Other Side, I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to make it back.

Also, it seems nobody on TVD ever really stays dead.

I know. So I don’t know how they could really make Damon and Bonnie and Lexi stay dead forever.

Especially now that Alaric is back. Damon is his drinking buddy. So of course Damon is coming back.

Now, I did watch TVD from the beginning up until about halfway through this season. In some ways, he’s really developed a lot as a character. Four+ years, and I guess a character should show growth, or they start to get a little boring, right?

Damon has come a long way.

Stefan even makes the comment when Damon dies that Damon had just gotten everything he wanted and he was happy.
So I guess the moral is as soon as you get everything you want, you die.

Misery is the secret to life, is that it?

I guess you can’t be accepted into whatever the other side of the Other Side is if you still have unhappiness holding you back. The other side of the Other Side can’t be contaminated with the tragedy of human experience.

Bottom line: if the studio has made Damon dead to me, then TVD is dead to me.

Amen and Amen. I agree, Damon is the lifeblood (har-har) of that show.

Haha.

Now, this isn’t the first show that’s tried to pull a death-that-is-not-death on you, is it? I heard something similar about Castle…?

Well, the network kind of spoiled that one when they went to commercial break and said Kate and Castle will return next season, so obviously he’s not really dead. And pretty much the only way to kill a main character is to show the body with the eyes open in the death stare. Even then, I still held out hope that Matthew Grantham could possibly still be alive.

Matthew, no. Ugh. Why’d you take me there? The pain is still too near.

Damn you, Downton Abbey!

But, and I feel bad about this, but a new romance for Mary sounds fun.

True, but in a way I feel like maybe they should’ve retitled the show this season to The Many Men of Mary. But Matthew’s death was last season, not this season. Not a single death for the Granthams this year (which is the UK’s last year, but whatever), proving that TV is not all doom and gloom after all.

At least Psych ended on a somewhat good note. Jules’s engagement ring got stolen just as Shawn finally proposed, but that led into a fun car chase.

Shawn and Gus are still together.

To be fair, though, Psych never really went to much of a dark place, did it? I don’t know. I didn’t catch the last season and a half.

Yeah, it never got too serious. A couple years ago, we thought Henry may have died, but he survived.

Shawn and Gus almost die every episode, but we always know they will get of it by some bizarre occurrence in the universe.

Or Shawn’s smart mouth.

Well, clearly they couldn’t kill Henry (Shawn’s dad). It would’ve irrevocably changed the characters of the show.

Yeah, the show is more about how unchangeable the characters are.

It’s one of the key differences between Psych and The Mentalist.

I mean, that and the fact that Psych is pure awesome, and The Mentalist is obnoxious and should be put out to pasture. 🙂

(Okay, that’s not fair of me. I’ve never watched a whole episode.)

Haha. well, some people like the show even if they think Jane is a jerk.

Jane is good and highly entertaining as a jerk, so it works for him.

He fits well with the rest of the characters, kinda like Gibbs on NCIS. Gibbs is a jerk sometimes but you can always depend on DiNozzo to lighten the mood.

Yes, and like Jane, DiNozzo is also obnoxious–but in a much more lovable way.

Exactly.

So what we’re really saying is Jane is a combination of Gibbs and DiNozzo…

Hmmm. I guess you could make that suggestion.

I love DiNozzo, so I’m very protective of him, haha.

Okay, now I haven’t watched this show much since the fourth season. Did I miss anything? 🙂 I didn’t, right?

Well, Ziva isn’t there, but I don’t remember which season she came in. Pretty much the characters are the same. DiNozzo has matured at infinitesimal increments, and he has had some serious moments.

What season is it in, anyway?

11, I think.

But the success is not because of the change in the characters or the storylines. It’s because we can depend on the NCIS team to be the same every week. We know what to expect. They never let us down by changing into someone else. I would be devastated if Tony DiNozzo got all serious and stopped being an overgrown frat boy.

Funny you mention that. Now if I remember right, NCIS got in pretty much at the beginning of the forensic drama craze, didn’t it?

Yes, I think so.

One thing that helped the show was that it was in the same universe as JAG, which was a popular courtroom drama that had similar who-dun-it aspects to it and a good ensemble of characters.

In fact, if I may add, I have been waiting for years, for NCIS to have Harm and Mac make a guest appearance, haha.

Hm. I never watched JAG, except for the backdoor pilot that introduced Gibbs. Long time ago. And like I said, I gave up on NCIS years ago, mostly I guess because I sorta lost interest in the procedural thing. But maybe you can speak to that. What do you think separates NCIS from other shows with a similar premise, like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order?

 

go to Vindicator Artists to read the rest!

don’t lie to me

disclaimer: I differentiate between writing and storytelling, but for this post I’m pretty much referring to them as the same thing.

 

I recently talked to a friend about creating her own blog. She’s a fellow writer and storyteller, and we spent some time discussing the benefits of a blog. (Check her out at http://vindicatorartists.wordpress.com!) She’s working on some really interesting things, and I hope she shares some of that on her blog. When we talk, I think a lot about how our friends (writers and non-writers) react to us. In my opinion, there are really only two ways the people in our lives respond when we talk to them about our writing efforts. They either encourage us or discourage us. There are a lot of variations on those two, but it comes down to positive and negative reinforcement. I’m not going to talk about discouragement. It’s fairly obvious, and I really have very little to add to it.

So. Encouragement. It sounds great, right? It usually is. Friends urge us to keep on keepin’ on. We can do it. Don’t give up. And various offerings of how rejection/failure/adversity helps build character. I’m not suggesting these things are false or pointless. They’re extremely valuable truths. I get frustrated a lot during the writing process. Writer’s block, plot holes, continuity issues, flat characterization. Lack of time/inspiration/energy. It (almost) always lifts my spirits when I’m reminded there are people behind me, rooting me on.

But there’s a dark side to encouragement. There’s the empty kind, or as I think of it–enabling. It’s when the words of support begin to reflect something that isn’t really true. (Yes, I’m sure many of you may say that truth is relative.) We’ve all experienced this, especially in grade school. Everything we did was “great” and “wonderful,” even when it was utter crap. Because at that time in our lives, we needed the positive reinforcement. But some people never left that phase of encouragement. Bad writers (and yes, there are bad writers out there) are told they’re good writers. Why? Because someone believes they need to be pushed along, even if they have zero talent. I most recently encountered this in a writer’s group I attended a couple years ago. There were a few good writers, a few mediocre ones, and a few undeniably “not so good” ones. But the feedback was all the same. This is great! Really well written. I can’t wait to read more. I wondered if I’d read what they had. Yes, writing is a subjective experience, but there are standards! You can like a really bad piece of writing, just like you can enjoy a really terrible movie (Batman ForeverOblivion, every post-2000 Michael Bay flick.) It’s perfectly okay to enjoy bad writing. The problem is in saying it was great storytelling just because you liked it. That’s a cardinal sin, especially when you’re doing to a friend. I can understand why someone would say it, but be honest.

I’m… terrible at this. I have done this in the past, but 99% of the time I at least lied in an honest way. (I believed it was good writing–at the time.) Okay, well, that’s forgivable. But there’s the 1% when I knew it was terrible, and I said it was good, anyway. Bad me. But I have trouble, real trouble, saying that someone’s writing is bad. Not because I don’t believe it, but because I’m too afraid of the backlash of being too honest. You want my opinion? Then you should be prepared for it. But people usually aren’t. They get angry, defensive, aggressive. All of a sudden it’s my fault that I don’t like it. Well, no, that’s not why it’s bad, I explain. I’ve disliked really good writing (ChinatownThe Empire Strikes Back–though I eventually came around to that, The Dark Knight Rises), so my feelings on a piece have little to do with my opinion on the quality of it. I’m just too much of a turkey to tell you the truth. And that’s when encouragement turns bad.

Why am I mentioning all this? I guess because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the kind of feedback I give. On anything, really, not just writing. Am I being honest? Am I being positive or negative? Do I even care? I tend to take things very personally. I listen intently to feedback, even if it doesn’t seem like I do, even if I decide not to use it. I listen, and I react to it. I’ve taken a lot of discouragement over the years from family and friends. Writing isn’t a real career to them–despite the fact that they enjoy TV and movies. I should do something more practical, something serious. I should get real. I can’t do it. Whatever. Fortunately, I’ve never been told I’m a bad writer, and for a while I took it at face value. Then I began to wonder if people were doing to me what I’d done to them. Were people just stroking my ego? Was I actually a talentless hack? It’s a judgment call, I know, but I still wanted to know if people thought that. It took a long time to come to the conclusion that people were being honest with me about that. Now I’ve been told that some of my stories aren’t good. Hell, I went through that all the time in film school, when my professors would rip my scripts up. But even then, they encouraged me and spoke positively of my writing.

I don’t want to make you question. And I’m really sorry if I’ve done that. I guess I wanted to encourage you to be honest. You can say if something is bad. You can say it’s terrible. Just–don’t leave it at that. Think about why something wasn’t good before saying it wasn’t good. Think about whether it really didn’t work or if you just didn’t like it.

Trust me, we’ll appreciate the difference.