This Thing We Do with Words, a slight return. Criticism

This Thing We Do with Words, a slight return.

Part three

Criticism

Everybody imagines themselves to be a critic, which probably explains why there seem to be a lot more critics than worthwhile writers.

H.L. Mencken once said that it if they took all the broken, mismatched or flawed pieces that were left over from making a writer, and put them together, what you got was a critic. (I am admittedly paraphrasing from memory.)

One of the other things we do with words is ridicule. And criticize, and nothing assures harsh criticism as surely as success.

And regardless of the level of success or recognition of the critic, mean-spirited derision tends to make me suspect that a great deal of personal unhappiness or jealousy on the part of the critic has prompted their words.

I mention this because I recently read a very clever author recommended to me by a friend, whom I expected to thoroughly enjoy, only to find myself as saddened by the bitterness of her criticisms as I was disappointed by her own original works. Not bad…just nothing special, especially for someone with such strong opinions.

The result of those reflections has left me near-mute for almost two weeks, prompting me to re-evaluate my own works, especially in regard to the editing and refining of my second novel.

It seems as if the current straw dog for literature, especially Literotica is Fifty Shades of Grey. Of course it is…the author is now a multi-millionaire while the rest of us aspire to be considered at least worthwhile authors.

Until recently, I never stopped to think about how difficult it is to entice the modern reader to take the time and make the emotional investment to read anything at all, at least for pleasure.

In seeking the attainment of good literature we are talking about creating an almost mystical state of mind invoking the “willing suspension of disbelief”.

This author/critic quoted numerous examples of the bad writing or choices of words by her target (E. L. James). Some of James’ expressions sounded clever enough to me, while quite a few of the critics’ own examples of acceptable alternatives were quite banal. (IMHO).

I went to her website again and read a few more entries. Nothing special. I applied the same negativity and mean-spirited attitude to myself…perhaps she was right…maybe everybody sucks…including her.

E. L. James may be an easy target. You can trash her works with a fair degree of certainty in knowing that no one will spring to her defense and in the process make yourself sound quite clever.

Literary bullies are nothing new…Physician (or critic) heal thyself.

This has everything to do with subjectivity. What I may find engaging and challenging may be excessive or esoteric to someone else. A word that elicits images of salacious desire in one mind may sound vulgar, crude, or inappropriate to the mind of another.

Erotica…good erotica is more difficult in this respect than most other genres because it is so specialized. In order to gain mass appeal, one has to find a universality that transcends the specifics well enough to translate individually to each reader personally.

But to paraphrase, just as you can’t please all the people all of the time, you also can’t seduce all the people all the time. Male or female, some prefer blondes or redheads and fair skin. Others are attracted to rugged good looks, vs. refined features, or dark skin, kind faces, intimidating demeanors, muscular or soft…it goes on forever, but as we all hope, “for every pot, there’s a lid”. (Yet another shop-worn phrase.)

I could feel the self-doubt rising within me again.

Do I wish or need to re-invent myself? Maybe.

I’m still not convinced that I have been completely authentic. I may still be caught up in the neurotic trap of trying to please others instead of satisfying myself. (The same rules for good sex are not necessarily true of creative endeavors.)

When you present your work to the public, it is already finished, unless you do it a chapter at a time on your blog like my last novel, and even then, you still have to stay true to your craft and your vision. As long as you are genuine, if you really believe it to be your best, it really doesn’t matter what other people think.

I would rather have a small following of readers who enjoy my best work, something of which I can be proud, than to make a whore of myself pandering to a public that I do not respect, and does not respect me.

I didn’t start writing to get rich. I write because I have to…because I am compelled to write.

I write for the same reasons an alcoholic drinks.

Namasté

नमस्ते

Chazz Vincent

04/22/2015

 

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