Asking Your Indulgence, or Finding Something to Criticize

ImageOne of the many stories my father told me was about how our mother abandoned my brother and I when I was 2 and he was 6 months. My father had to drive for 20 hours to get to the police station where we were being held because we’d been found in an abandoned apartment on a mattress.

I’ve never met my mother and I’ve always assumed this story was true. If you think writers go to dark places on TV to manipulate you, please understand that some of us have lived it.

I spent the next 14 years of my life living with people who hated me. I never heard the words “I love you,” I was never encouraged to be anything, and the only two people that mattered to me in the world both died by the time I was 25.

I do not have a measure of happiness similar to most people around my. My barometer of success is different than most as well. I do not believe anything good comes from spreading sunshine, but there are plenty of people who do.

Why am I writing this on my gaming site?

Let me explain.

Stories of fake happiness, tabloid emptiness, and the general malaise that comes with people misusing words (like hate) because they’ve never really felt any emotions kind of deaden us and lead us down the road of cognitive bias.

The internet is a dreadful place in too many ways. Yes, there are pictures of cats to make us smile, and chainsaw suit comics to distract us from patterns of the familiar. But for the most part, we avoid sites that bother us, avoid discourse from people who hurt our feelings, and only indulge in the words and dialogs that are easiest. We’ve convince ourselves that our work is hard and therefore we need happy distractions to “literally” make it to the end of the day.

We certainly wouldn’t want anything negative impacting us and anything critical or substantive is clearly negative or hateful. The solution is to change the world by only being happy online, as an industry professional recently pointed out.

But I think he’s wrong.

And I think we have more to offer than that.

Creation of any kind requires us to go to personal places. Granted someone knitting a scarf probably isn’t dredging up the same emotional turmoil as Jackson Pollack did each morning with a bottle of bourbon in his stomach before he headed to the barn to paint. But the idea that you’ve created something personal is still there.

And it still hurts when people reject it, criticize it, and call it “fluff.”

But it should hurt. It should be those things. Art should constantly be examined, torn apart, dissected, and made better. Criticism is the most important tool in your arsenal for getting better and making something that matters to you. Anyone can write the sentence, “The Elves of Narklan are tall, thin, and adept with the bow. They do not like orcs, gaining a +1 competence bonus on all ranged attacks against them. But they are fond of dwarves, if only at a distance.” It takes someone years to master the phrasing, “The blighted dark elves of the haunted Narklan has been without the knowledge or language to build fire for over 100 years. The curse of the wellspawn hag who severed their fae-cords and drove them into the Hills of Night still lives, in spirit alone. Each day the elves wake with her name on their tongues, strengthening her hold over their people, reminding them of their curse. It is a perpetual hell for the elves, one they are unlikely to break from while the name of the great hag still lingers.”

Now. I’m not saying that’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s a first draft, done off the top of my head in order to illustrate a point. I am a 16-year veteran of the industry, with numerous accolades and awards. And none of that matters to me if I can’t get better at this. None of that matters if I don’t listen to criticism from people I respect to push me to work harder. None of that matters if everyone blows sunshine up my ass and tells me, “it’s great.”

I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I don’t want an internet that is safe from controversy. I don’t want to work in an industry that thinks they can keep telling me then elves are good with a bow.

So. To anyone who knows me. Anyone who reads my work. Anyone who thinks feelings are more important than truth. I’m sorry we don’t see eye to eye on things all the time. But that’s what makes creating things worth it for me. If I always gave you 100% what you expected, I would never exceed your expectations. And If all I ever do is tell you how great everything is all the times, you’ll never see the blemishes underneath that make things better.

So. Sorry A+ movement. But I can’t agree.

I like my world a little cracked. A little tarnished. A little gray.

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5 thoughts on “Asking Your Indulgence, or Finding Something to Criticize

  1. You bring up a good point, in that sunshine all the time isn’t good for excelling at your craft. However, I think perhaps you might have missed the boat a little bit on the assuming the article by “an industry professional” was about being all happy…he was calling for not being so mean and negative. Does that mean we have to agree with everything likes or does? Hell no. I think that person was more for saying hey if you like X and I don’t, that ok but I don’t have to bash it, or you because you like it. Maybe I am somewhere in between these two ways of looking at things.

    🙂
    Josh

    1. the person in question made a “vow” to not be negative for a month. okay. good on you. but i don’t feel that way. and you know how i write, josh. i balanced this carefully against the parts i wanted to. his digression at the end was his. and i chose to ignore it.

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