when things don’t quite work out

So where did we leave off? Ahh yes. On a high note!

Well. Summer came and it’s slowly on the way out. Shot, edited, and promoted the company’s first short film, That’s my D*ck! And in retrospect, I feel as though I should’ve included a disclaimer. It’s not a porno, it doesn’t have nudity, it doesn’t even have swearing (I think). It’s not offensive in the slightest. It’s just a play on words. But I didn’t say any of that, so more than a few times I got the troll lash for pushing what people thought was a porno. Lesson learned!

Not so long ago, I had a particular vision for my film company. That vision, alas, has become muddled in the last several days. I’m looking at starting from scratch (with the exception that I now have a short film under my belt and some hard-earned experience). I’m no stranger to failure, few of us are. Trying and failing is easy. It’s the getting back up to try again that’s hard.

It’s coming up on ten years soon, since I decided to steer myself toward a future in filmmaking. I’ve made a few strides, I’ve second-guessed myself a million times, I’ve screwed up even more than that. But I can only do what I think is best. I’ll miss some of the relationships that have been lost, definitely the friendships. But I can’t let the setbacks get in my way anymore. I’ve spent too much of my life nursing old wounds and sulking over past failures. Not this time.

Ever since I started writing seriously, I’ve been hyper-critical of my own work. If I don’t think it’s the best I could do, then I don’t feel especially accomplished even though I finished it. This was a problem in film school. I never owned the work that I wasn’t proud of. Maybe the hardest lesson I can learn from all of this is that I need to stand by my work. Even if it’s bad. And as I read in another blog, especially if it’s bad. I have permission to make… not-good stuff. But I can’t step away from it or pretend that it doesn’t exist.

I produced That’s my D*ck! It was a hell of a ride planning for it and shooting it. It was a slog editing it. And I don’t know what to say about the end product except that I’m proud of it. I didn’t show that before. I didn’t know how to. But I am proud of it. And I’m very proud of all the people who helped make it possible, and there were many.

Own your work, good or bad.

Get back up.

And move forward with confidence.

Are you listening, self?

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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.

when the feedback you’re hoping for isn’t the feedback you get

No, no clever title this time, though I admit this may still confuse some people.

When I went to film school, I had a lot of big story ideas I couldn’t wait to translate to the screen. I’d been writing for so many years, fantasizing about my stories appearing on TV or film. I’d spent days, then weeks and months developing characters and story arcs… maybe I was a little light on theme, but the hope of further developing my ideas pushed me to step way outside my comfort zone twice and move across the country to attend film school.

If you ever hear someone say that filmmaking is a collaborative art, it’s completely true. And in some ways it isn’t. Unless you’re gifted with superhuman speed, stamina, and masochistic tendencies, you need other people to work alongside you–a cast and crew. When we’re talking professional (Hollywood or “indie”) productions, there’s really no way around that. You just can’t make a film by yourself. But when I say that filmmaking isn’t collaborative, I mean that as the designated “filmmaker,” the person with the vision and the need to make this film (whether that makes you the director or the producer), it’s really all on you to push and make sure you succeed. Like with writing in general, it can be kind of a lonely road. Your vision guides the shape the story takes. Your perseverance steers the project through the inevitable tough times. (Yes, I know all about the studio system. Let’s not pop open that particular can of worms.) It may be that you’ll invite others to participate in your storytelling process, of course, but the product should reflect what you want. Don’t look to someone else to make those final creative decisions, because you’re the filmmaker. (There’s a really great text called The Independent Filmmaker’s Law and Business Guide: Financing, Shooting and Distributing Independent and Digital Films
by Jon M. Garon
that describes this concept of a “filmmaker” in its opening chapters.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t take this lesson to heart while I was at film school. Despite all my hard work, I never fully “owned” my productions, and the quality suffered for it. And for as long as I was in school, I never really understood why. I never even noticed the problems on set, or during post-production, not until it was too late.

My classmates saw it but if they knew the real reason why, they didn’t say. Despite that, they still saw more clearly than I did. They pointed out the obvious, of course. (Obvious in hindsight.) Visually, a lot of my work was a mess. I couldn’t argue with it. But I was sure the story, the script, was solid at least. Feedback on that part was minimal. Neutral. Needless to say, I was crushed. It wasn’t until I switched from a Directing concentration to Screenwriting that I finally started to received the kind of feedback I was looking for.

Except it wasn’t the feedback I was hoping for.

My professors–and especially my thesis committee–and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on my scripts. Technically and lyrically, they had nothing but high praise. Thematically and otherwise, well, I can only hope that they just didn’t get what I was trying to do. Whether they did or not, though, the feedback was discouraging. In the words of one professor (whose opinion means a lot to me), “It’s beautifully written, but I just don’t see why I should give a shit about these characters.”

Those words, even now several years later, have never left me.

perfection revisited

WARNING: spoilers for X-Men:Days of Future Past and Iron Man 3 will be marked in red when I get to them. So… just scroll past the red if you want to avoid the spoilers. Also, this post is going to be super long.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of film podcasts lately. (The Golden Briefcase, Filmspotting, The /Filmcast, Slate’s Spoiler Specials, How Did This Get Made?) I don’t go to movies much anymore, not since I left my job at the movie theater, but I’m always interested in knowing about good and bad movies, and why they’re good or bad. The podcasters often discuss movies they loved (or thought were good) while at the same time highlighting the issues they had with the movie. Some films have a vast range of problems. And lately it’s made me wonder. How do these people–how does anyone, really–love a movie if it has so many issues? How can those movies be good movies? Continuity, character development, plot points, logic problems… aren’t these all signs of a bad movie? Okay, so I guess I’m facing two different questions, really, between loving a movie and thinking it’s a good/great movie. So I’ll tackle them both.

And yes, I will talk about the new X-Men movie in some detail later on, because my experience with that movie yesterday inspired me to write this post.

Loving a good movie. Alright. I think I talked about this before. It’s okay to love a bad movie. I love plenty of them. Hell, I loved Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher. I even enjoyed Knight and Day. That’s right. I loved Transformers, too–but only the first one. (The second and third ones can suck it.) I enjoy bad television: The 100Once Upon a Time (sort of), 2 Broke Girls. (If it makes anyone feel better, I also love some very good television like Downton Abbey and Longmire. If you’re interested, check out my previous posts for more favorite shows and movies.) So I can understand why these podcasters can say they love films like the new X-MenGodzilla, and even The Amazing Spider-man 2. I’ve only seen X-Men. I was planning on checking out the latter two, but Rotten Tomatoes and word of mouth has discouraged me from spending my money. Alas, I’m not always willing to admit those bad ones are actually bad. But I will recognize that critics and the general public probably think so. And I understand that movies and television make for a very subjective experience. One man’s Hamlet is another man’s Phantom Menace and vice-versa.

I watched Iron Man 3 when it came out. Opening night, too, so I saw it with an energetic crowd. I. Hated. It. Why? Well… okay. Nerd rant with spoilers incoming–though I’m not really a comic book nerd.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

The buddy-buddy thing going on between Tony Stark and James Rhodes didn’t work for me, and I think that’s a big part of the film, part of its draw. I didn’t enjoy their banter. I found it tiring, and it tried too hard to be buddy-buddy.

The Iron Man suit itself–everybody was putting it on. I mean Pepper wore it. The President wore it. Hell, the bad guy wore it. You know who didn’t wear it that much? Tony Stark. Way to go, keeping Iron Man out of the Iron Man suit. You’ve turned a superhero into an overgrown child with a remote control.

And then the battle at the end, where bad guys and Iron Man suits were dropping like flies. How many suits did Tony go through to finally put down Killian? Oh, and Pepper has the extremis? No, wait, Tony figured out how to remove it in about five minutes. Never mind. And he destroys the suits? Why? I don’t know. He’s obviously going to need to have at least one for The Avengers 2.

Oh yeah… and if he could remotely summon them to do their own thing in that last battle, why didn’t it occur to him to summon them during the Air Force One attack? Sure would’ve made it a lot safer and smarter to have more than one suit rescuing people.

And I’m not the foremost expert on Iron Man mythology, but I’m pretty confident that Mandarin is his greatest enemy. The Joker to his Batman. Then you go and turn Mandarin into a fraud? An actor with questionable gastrointestinal issues?

And why, exactly, did we need Rebecca Hall in this movie? And having a history with Iron Man? She contributed nothing but one more death.

Don’t get me started on the little boy.

I think the movie started out with such promise, too. The return of Yinsen was awesome nostalgia. And then it went downhill from there. I want to be clear. I love the Iron Man character. I was a huge fan of the first film. The second film was… eh. This one. Let me put it this way. At no point during Iron Man 3 did I get excited. About anything. Zero nerdgasms. At least with Iron Man 2 I got excited when he put on the suitcase suit at the race track. Anyway. Rant over.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

This leads to the second question. Believing a movie is good/great even when it’s bludgeoned with plot holes. My distaste for Iron Man 3 is directly tied into the problems I had with the film. At what point do the plot/character problems make it a nonsensical hot mess? Again, I suppose it’s subjective. I loved Inception and truly believe it was a fantastic movie. But yeah, it had some problems. I think the problems with that movie, though, are part of its genius. The Matrix Revolutions, however, not a good movie–mostly because of its plot and character problems. I think it has been a really long time since I saw a movie at the theater that was good. I’ve seen a few DVDs that I thought were pretty good, I guess. The Wolf of Wall Street was good. Not great, but good. I liked Ender’s Game, though I’ll admit it wasn’t very good. At least it was entertaining. Frozen–a great movie. I have a few more DVDs I’m hoping to try out tonight and tomorrow, like Veronica Mars the movie and Homeland. I hope they’re good. Well, I guess Homeland will be good, whether I like it or not.

Obviously, the issue crosses over into books as well. Ender’s Game is a great book. I had a lot of trouble actually liking it, though. The first Guardians of Ga’Hoole book was cute and kinda fun. Not very good. The World of Warcraft novel Vol’jin was absolute crap, and I hated it despite being a huge WoW nerd. Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall were also pretty bad. The Percy Jackson series. Fun, but not that good, clearly a direct derivative of Harry Potter and not nearly as good. I’m currently working on The Black Company and I’m not getting into it. Though most critics and readers will agree that it’s a fantastic fantasy series. I guess, but I’m not feeling it.

My point is, our preferences are highly subjective. Even standards are somewhat fluid, depending on the genre or reviewer. Not every top critic was in love with Godzilla. Most critics hated The Amazing Spider-man 2, but that didn’t stop it from earning a ton of money. I didn’t see that one, either, so I can’t comment on it. So I’ll point back to Iron Man 3 as a truly excellent example of a really sloppy movie coasting on goodwill and past successes. I once stated that the movie could’ve been Tony Stark picking his nose for two hours and it still would’ve earned a billion dollars. Which is too bad, really. I think RDJ is a great actor and Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter. (I loved Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.)

So this leads into my experience with X-Men. And now we head back into spoilers.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

Again, it started off well enough. A battle against the Sentinels that ends in multiple X-Men deaths, some of them fan favorites. I was even okay with it rewinding the clock. Unfortunately, seeing this plot device at work in the beginning completely took away the jeopardy and pathos I felt in the final battle (in the future) at the end of the movie. With all but two X-Men dying, I just didn’t care because I knew time would be reset again. In fact, the more X-Men that died, the more sure I became of a positive outcome. So did it matter to me when Storm died? Or Magneto? Not really, no. Hell, I laughed when the Sentinels pulled Colossus apart. (Admit it, though, that was just silly-looking.)

And yes, I understand that a new X-Men movie obliges us to see brand new mutants with interesting new powers. Fine. But only one of them mattered to the plot. It’s really unfortunate that Quicksilver was the most entertaining character of the film and he was in and out of the movie within fifteen minutes. Also, Wolverine’s knowledge of him came out of nowhere. At no point during any of the previous X-Men movies was Quicksilver mentioned, not even in the movie I was watching. So yeah, that came out of nowhere.

Also, I am a huge, huge James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender fan. Atonement and 12 Years a Slave are among my favorite films ever, and in no small part to those actors’ performances. Those guys are phenomenal actors, and their portrayals of Xavier and Magneto is great to watch. But the characters went nowhere. Though we get the feeling that Magneto is about to turn a new leaf, we discover he’s still the same old megalomaniac pro-mutant Magneto. Though I suppose we could argue that young Xavier gets his groove back by the end of the film, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Characters are meant grow.

Speaking of. I really hope Ellen Page got paid a lot of money. She spent 99% of her screen time on her knees, holding her hands over Hugh Jackman’s head. A really stupid use of an arguably pretty-talented actress. (Addendum: how the hell does Anna Paquin get higher billing over Ellen Page for a three second, non-speaking cameo? Someone explain that to me–without referring to the supposed deleted scenes of hers that’ll be added in the DVD.)

Beast–superfluous. He wasn’t even a foil for anyone.

Havoc? Toad? The other ones and the entire Vietnam sequence? Pointless.

Mystique became little more of a MacGuffin than anything else, with only one real moment to shine at the very end of the movie.

And Wolverine, the biggest badass of them all, does the least amount of fighting in the film. One quick fight when he first transports into his young body against some mafioso-like thugs and very briefly in the final fight at the end of the movie. He spent the rest of the movie playing the unlikeliest cheerleader in the world to young Xavier. (Side note, if Wolverine doesn’t age–as Kitty Pryde pointed out–why does his older self actually look older?)

Then there’s the final outcome of the movie. So… Magneto attempts to kill the President but is stopped by Mystique. If things had ended there, I could easily understand how the future turns out better. But then Mystique turns around and prepares to kill (ostensibly) Trask, though the officials clearly believed the President was also in danger. Why this still results in a better future for mutants is what I don’t get. Seems like Nixon would still think the mutants are a threat when a gun is waved at him by a sexy blue chick. But eh, whatever.

The action was pretty hit or miss, too. The future battles are all entertaining, but as I said, the second one lost its emotional power after watching Kitty Pryde’s power at work in the first one. Prison breaking Magneto from the Pentagon was great, but this was all Quicksilver. He was hilarious, and watching him slow-mo sabotage a wave of guards was priceless. The fight in Paris was not that interesting, mostly because it was mired by frequent cuts of Wolverine having a mental breakdown. (Why did we need William Stryker in this? The movie had nothing to do with Wolverine or his past/future at all, and it ultimately went nowhere.) The final fight started off okay with the Sentinels falling under Magneto’s control, but then the fight loses focus as we just sit back and watch him Independence Day a baseball stadium across Washington DC except at a snail’s pace. It was impressive for about five seconds, then it was just meh.

Lastly, I want to touch on the stinger. First of all, if you’re going to throw just one stinger in there, don’t save it for the end of the scrolling credits. My god, who wants to stick around for all that when almost every stinger is at the end of the splash credits? I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t already Wiki’d the movie before going. But all that aside, again, I would probably not have guessed we were seeing Apocalypse. It was vague. It came out of left field. It was set in the past and literally had nothing to do with the movie at all. Why did we have to go thousands of years back in time? I don’t know, except Bryan Singer really wanted to shoehorn in a reference to the sequel. Fine. Then at least make Apocalypse, I don’t know, look like Apocalypse! He looked like Powder, except prettier. I knew what I was watching, and I still didn’t recognize him. Way to go.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

I was really looking forward to this movie. Its Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% with a 98% top critics score only cemented my opinion that the movie was going to be awesome. But it was not awesome, at least not to me, and I tried really hard to get into it. Too many problems, though, and I mentioned them all above in the spoilers if you want to read them. The Metacritic score of 74 is much more appropriate, in my opinion. I didn’t hate the movie. I think it was good. I think… I’m not really sure. The only thing I can say for sure is I thought it was okay, and that it wasn’t a terrible movie. So I began to wonder if I had lost my ability to appreciate a good film, despite its many issues. I don’t know.

All I know is it’s been a long time since I walked out of the theater a satisfied customer.

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.

people aren’t perfect

News flash, right?

Most of the time, I don’t believe in the concept of perfect. A perfectly-prepared meal, perfectly-written paper, perfect performance. You get the idea. Theologically–if you lean that way–perfection is generally unattainable in this life. If you swing atheist… well, I don’t actually know what you’d have to say about it. But I think you’d at least agree that people aren’t perfect.

We know this. Right? This isn’t a news flash, is it? So, then why is it so difficult to accept criticism? I’m usually pretty good at taking criticism, whether I deserve it or not. Film school pretty much functioned on the assumption that if you were there, you were open to others’ opinions. I guess I’m pretty expressionless, because it seems a lot of people thought I didn’t care for their opinions or intended to ignore them, neither of which was true. I listen very carefully to critiques. Whether I agree with them or not, it’s always important to understand why someone thinks a portion (or all) of my work could be better.

As I said, no one’s perfect, and we don’t produce perfection. For a writer, this is just part of the process. First draft, second draft… the idea of a final draft is more wishful thinking than a goal, I think. We all know, that draft will never really be finished. There’s always tinkering to be done.

I remember one particular incident. I was reading from my thesis before the entire department faculty–or, at least, those who had decided to show up. And several of my peers. Afterward, everyone got to speak their mind. I can’t remember what the process was called, but I think the word “trial” was in there somewhere, or should have been. One of my professors–he shall remain nameless–gave me very on-point feedback. I nodded politely and listened. At some point, he stopped, laughed, and accused me of, well, of preparing to ignore it. Not true, but my thesis committee and I fought extensively when it came to my script.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. But I think at some point, we all feel the urge to defend our work. Just because I disagree with your opinion, it doesn’t mean I’ve ignored your opinion. It just means that I’m not you, my work isn’t your work, it’s my responsibility and not yours. My name goes on it, so I must be comfortable and confident of the final (using that word loosely) product. I guess people feel they need to defend their opinions sometimes, too, and that’s where conflict can start. I’m part of a fantastic writer’s group. A lot of talent. Great writers and storytellers… and perhaps, great egos to go with it. Sometimes we’re eager to get our work torn to shreds, already judging it poorly for ourselves. And other times, well, don’t even think about poking at this piece of dialogue or character choice. It can get tense, but I think we all come out better for it.

I may have mentioned it before, but sometimes this fear of criticism–from others or from yourself–can get in the way. If you’re a perfectionist like me (yes, I’m laughing at the irony, too) you want it to be just right before committing to it, as if you can pen it inside your head first, then quickly scrawl it down on the page. Maybe it works that way for some people. It doesn’t for me. My brain just doesn’t have the processing power to actually write a book, word for word, in my head. At first, I worried it would be the same with my blog. I would need feedback before posting it, I would have to do second and third drafts, polishes, proofs (well, maybe that, at least), and so on before I could publish it. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I write, I proof, I publish. No one sees this until it’s up. I don’t even look at it again until it’s up. Writing hasn’t been this organic for me since… I can’t remember. Grade school? Junior high? It’s strange and innocent and fresh and terrifying, and I wonder what my fiction would look like if I could ever apply this same fearlessness there.

Well. Whatever it would be, it still wouldn’t be perfect. 🙂