Note to Reader: This is a reworking of something I wrote for my blog on http://www.writingforums.org/ a while back.
I used to frequently post on this forum for constructive critique and assistance in creative writing, and I suggest any of you who like to write check it out for some useful assistance and like minded people.
One thing I noticed while posting there however was a lot of attention seeking, a lot of unwarranted heavy criticism. But the thing was, I was just as guilty as everyone else there for doing it. It got me thinking – do we as writers, care more for the praise or recognition gained by our creations, than the actual process of creating itself? Do we tend to unjustly hold our work and our abilities up on some elevated podium, with rose tinted glassed, perhaps look upon our creations with more favourable eyes we would the work of others?
I accept that it is difficult to escape one’s own mind, our own trivial desires and aspirations to be adored. Self delusion of one’s own aptitude and importance plagues many of us. For instance, I am subscribed to many blogs of fellow creators, but comment in very few of them. What does this say about me as a person?
Hence, today I hope to write about the narcissistic tendencies of writers and people in general.
I find that many of us are more concerned with our own writing then that of our literary peers. Do a majority of post our work to gain insight into how we may improve our writing? Or merely to stroke our ever inflating ego’s? Perhaps even pertain to some ideal that we are intelligent, we have talent, and seek confirmation of this fact?
I think maybe I might be being a bit cynical of the intentions of the amateur writer here. While even I admittedly don’t take enough interest in other peoples work, and have those narcissistic qualities highlighted above, I think when it comes down to it, I mostly write for fun, for escape, to ward off boredom and loneliness. (Sad times indeed my friend)
Perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic – it’s a hobby put simply, one which I hope to turn into a career one day. I must by very virtue of the trade start out as an amateur unfortunately. But I like to think of it like this – we are all capable of greatness, while we may or may not necessarily achieve it in our lives. But in order to achieve greatness, we all require recognition of our efforts, to keep us going along in a protective bubble of delusion, in the hopes one day we’ll be “good enough”. There are many failures along the way, and I think a touch of vanity helps an aspiring anything to overcome these frequent set backs. Nobody starts out as a literary genius, or a masterful artist; Picasso didn’t pick up a paintbrush and just paint a masterpiece. just as CLR James did not write The Black Jacobins in an evening.
What I’m getting at is, they had to believe in themselves, they had to think they had what it took. Because anyone who’s ever achieved anything worth achieving knows that it takes time, it takes effort and it takes perseverance. Sometimes a little ego stroking goes a long way in helping you actually become good at something.
Hence, I don’t think one ought to be to harsh in critiquing the aspiring writer or artist, for it can do more harm than good in my opinion. We all have this innate ability to create this entity, which is essentially an open concept. Always changing in the collaborative eyes of society. There is no set way of doing things, no matter how much you may think there is. While you may have personal preferences or certain beliefs to what you find “pleasurable” art, or how you think we ought to succeed at writing a novel – this is of course your prerogative as a living, thinking, free human being. We all needs time to find our own voice, our style, our message – and personally I’ve needed a lot of reassurance to get where I’m at today.
As an alternative, I put it to you dear reader, that maybe sharing our lovingly crafted works should be less about critiquing the parts you don’t like, but highlighting how something is good, and has this intangible, indefinable “value”. For if we are to define literature as essentially art, then what is its purpose? How do we as human beings, derive pleasure from its inception and creation? I think this is an almost impossible answer to formulate, for if we were to ask everyone on this planet, I’m sure the answers would be unique to every individual queried.
In this regard, I suppose we refrain from harsh critique, and focus more on understanding each other’s work, highlighting strengths, and seeing the stories behind these individual works of art, many of which, along my own that is, are destined to be lost in the great abyss of time. The only rules are that it entertains, it inspires and it has meaning. Sometimes picking over details, being pedantic and too technical is just unnecessary While criticism can be effective, too much can lead to apathy or despair. I think that we should just give each other’s work the time and attention it deserves, for however brief it may be, and however little contribution we may give.