December 3rd, 2007

Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

TALKIN SMACK IN PUBLICK

When I'm going off about someone or something, I usually don't care to censor myself according to whoever might be listening. This is particularly true down in the TA offices, where literally anyone could potentially hear whatever shit you're talking--and I estimate that I spend about 75% of my time down there talking shit. The only reason I lock certain posts in this LJ is because of professional courtesy reasons, not because I'm frightened of what people will think about me once they're aware of what I think of them. Chances are, if I don't like you, you're pretty goddamn aware of that fact. I'm not skilled at hiding my opinion of people, whether favorable or unfavorable, and I'm not scared of saying to someone's face what I'll say 'behind their back.' If I say to person A, "listen, person B is a prick," and person C comes in, hears it, and says "hay, person B is my buddeh," then so what? That doesn't change the fact that person B was a prick to me, or a prick to people I know, or some combination thereof. You don't have to like everyone you meet. For damn sure not everyone I meet likes me honestly i'm really surprised ANYONE does, so what can you do?

And the fact of the matter is, I don't like a number of people in my program, and it's based almost solely on my experience of them in workshop. Maybe these people are awesome when they're not in a position to critique others. Maybe they are kind, understanding, gentle, and loving human beings for the other 98 pct of their lives. But for the 2 pct of my experience with them, they're pompous assholes, and they contribute to an atmosphere in workshop that I find EXTREMELY damaging. This semester, in Bausch's class, I have not felt persecuted AT ALL. I've gone home tired and spent, yes, but that's because on Mondays I'm here from 8 AM to 8 PM--otherwise known as fucking forever. My exhaustion isn't because the workshop is oppressive, as it was particularly during my first semester. If I thought my opinions of this group were due solely to my inability to take criticism, then I reckon I would find ALL workshops ridiculously oppressive. But I don't. I just find certain styles of response to be unacceptable. When I find myself lapsing into that style--the snarky, condescending, sarcastic style--I hate myself. I go home and I feel terrible. I work against it, because that is NOT what developing writers need. Developing writers need support, and they need empathy, and yes, they need honest, upfront criticism--but there is a way to deliver criticism without being a fucking douchebag.

And I know it's hard. Sometimes I'm confronted with a story that just lies so far outside my realm of interest, or that does things in a way I find so baroque, that I think "What the fuck can I possibly say about this thing?" But then, now, I read it again, I think about it, I locate the strengths, and I try, I TRY to discuss the weaknesses in a way that is encouraging as opposed to demeaning, because workshops are not meant to be demeaning. You are not supposed to leave a workshop feeling like a failure. You should leave workshop feeling energized and inspired, not downtrodden.

My favorite genre is tragicomic fantasy, both high (like Pratchett) and urban (like Gaiman). Obviously, I'm not working with my favorite genres here, and I'm not writing them (for this program anyway). But I honestly love stories of ALL types, just like I love MUSIC of all types (I just love electronica/dancepop/chillout the best). And I want, really want, to be the kind of critic who helps and encourages, not the kind who condescends and degrades. And yes, you can say valid things when you're degrading a work, absolutely you can. But I'll still think you're a pompous blowhard.