Artists critiquing artists

As an artist, or writer, specifically, I’ve been critiqued. I’ve been critiqued when I ask for it, but more often, when I don’t ask for it. (Which isn’t to say, don’t give unsolicited critique, just keep doing you, but try not to critique unfinished work unless asked.)

Creating anything, whether it be a painting, a book, song, dance performance, anything, is always a difficult undertaking. It’s fraught with questioning self-confidence, attempts at giving up, and the imposing question of ‘will it be good enough?’ There are someone people who seem to be able to create art and never feel the negative effects of showing it to people, but I highly suspect these people are hiding something.

When a piece of work is finally finished, and shown to the world, the inevitable comments demeaning the work start almost immediately. It’s strange, because these comments tend to come from people who don’t create. They aren’t writers, they aren’t singers, or dancers, actors, musicians, etc. They haven’t made themselves vulnerable, showing the entire world what only existed inside their head. It’s one thing to be insulted, and I think we’ve all been insulted at some point or another, but it’s another thing to have something you create be insulted. Hell, look at parents. Try insulting their kid in front of the parent, see how smashingly that goes.

So it’s often confusing, or downright perplexing, when an artist demeans another artist’s works.

You are one of them! You know how it feels to create something. You know the amount of pressure you’re under when making something The amount of times you change, edit, and alter something so more people will like it, or fewer people will be offended. What are you doing, insulting other artists?

This happened to me the other day. I had a few questions about the particulars of advertising my book (keywords, audience, etc.), and instead I get a comments about the cover or the synopsis.

On one hand, they are technically about advertising. Fine. Technically correct is the best kind of correct, and all that. But I find it fascinating when the comments are closer to “Worst cover I’ve seen,” than “I like XYZ, but your cover throws me a little bit. Have you considered taking another look at it?”

Critiquing should be constructive. The good with the bad. Reinforcing what decisions you thought were good, and highlighting the ones you found questionable.

I understand there’s a culture of “The worst thing you can tell someone is ‘good job’ because they’ll never work for anything greater,” but I find that to be a bit of a cop out. I think the people who take that ‘good job’ and keep pushing are worthy artists. This isn’t to say there’s nothing helpful about the vindictive energy you get when someone rips apart the beautiful thing you created, I just think you should become an artist if you want to. Not to prove someone else wrong. Because then you define your entire life by someone else’s, and forget to live for yourself.

The uncomfortable draw of social media

Since I recently self-published a novella, I’ve had to engage in social media. At least, more than I did before. This meant getting a Twitter page, a Snapchat account, and increasing my Instagram presence.

That feeling of needing to be needed is immediate. I downloaded Snapchat two nights ago, and I found hundreds of people I had lost contact with when they either closed their Instagram accounts, or I closed down my Facebook account.

Snapchat was like some hidden bastion of social connectedness. So, of course I started posting. Started friending people I hadn’t talked to in years. And then I kept checking my phone, wondering who would respond. And wondering if my post was funny enough, or engaging enough. And I’m definitely not proud of that. I thought I had been able to rise above the allure when I stopped using most social media years ago. But I think the truth is, maybe because of how it’s designed, or how we respond to the slightest amount of attention, we need to keep posting, and we need to keep “connecting.”

The problem was, I was trying to connect with people I hadn’t spoken to in years, and quite frankly, didn’t really care about their opinion outside of that specific realm.

Sounds harsh, right? Let me explain. If any of them had come up to me on the street, and said, “Hey, I think you’re a funny guy.” it would have been strange, to say the least. But more than that, I wouldn’t have really cared. Who was this person? Someone I vaguely knew years ago? Why should I let any comment, good or bad, effect me? But the second I post a photo, and don’t hear positive feedback, I feel like I didn’t something wrong. Like there was some test I didn’t pass.

In the past two days, and since I’ve been keeping a track of how often I open the app (and catching myself when I close the app and immediately reopen it like something might have happened in the last half-second), it’s gotten better.

And the unfortunate thing is with all of this, I feel like I need it to advertise. Not just posting pictures to people who are tired of seeing the same book cover again and again, but trying to add the book, or the experience in the book, into the conversation.

Which is the ‘proper’ way of advertising, but damn if it doesn’t feel scummy.

Twitter, in a sense, is better. The amount of tailoring can make Twitter an enjoyable experience. It can usually feel like a conversation with people who have similar interests. Sometimes it turns into an all-out political flame-war (which is why I stopped using it years ago) but then I unfollow those who were involved, and continue on my way. Granted, it’s not very useful for advertising (at least, to me. But I don’t post about my book on it. Could have something to do with it.), but it’s still an interesting place to drop a few comments and start a conversation.

Instagram might just be the worst place to involve yourself, social media-wise. As I am traveling (which I realize is the dream of so many people) I do try and post the good and the bad. Not just the good. I’m not trying to cultivate a place where people are jealous, but I want to build a place where people can be informed. I try to show people that traveling isn’t always great food and fun times, but sometimes it’s stressful. Sometimes you have nowhere to live, or money starts to run out, or all the grocery stores closed and you have no money and even a five euro pizza seems like an insane expense. I suppose, what I’m trying to say, is that I try to show people that traveling is relative.

Not everyone tries to do that. Which is fine. More power to ’em. But they’re straightforward lying. Acting that they’re in certain cities by posting old photos. Or acting that their trip to Provence was amazing, when they told me it was stressful and they couldn’t get past the language barrier.

This is destructive. It’s telling people they should be doing this. Of course, the easy answer is to unfollow these people, right? But sometimes, it’s just a friend that went to France, and they’re acting like they’re walking in Heaven. Don’t want to unfollow them for doing what they think they have to do, right? They just need to be needed.

Follow me if you want to read anything else mildly depressing. Or anything about house sitting. Going to start writing about that soon. Maybe it’s something more fun.