Yeah, we love you, but…
Do you remember movie critics? Siskel and Ebert come to mind. I’m sure there were more, but I never paid attention to any of them. Do you know why? Because they don’t matter. I sometimes watch reviews after I watch the movie, or read the book, or see a piece of art for the first time. I like to make up my mind, not have others do it for me.
Criticism has become a mainstream movement, mostly driven by Amazon and it’s five-star ratings, where you can rate anything from the diapers you bought to a small piece of electrical equipment only three people in the world understand—and you can tell those three people what you think, even if you don’t know what it does…
But Amazon didn’t start it. The five-star rating system has been around forever, and try as I may, I cannot figure out who started it. I’m sure it was a politician, but I can’t swear to it, and even if I could I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
Reviews are generally of two types: positive or negative. Let’s face it: people who have no opinion, one way or the other, never leave a review, because, what’s the point? It was fine; it worked. Why say more?
People who leave reviews are either for or against something. Just go read the reviews, you’ll see what I mean. Here’s my point: those are product reviews, and some would say Art falls amongst that plethora of innocuous things, like Pampers and thermistors: something you can measure, like temperature, or if the plug fits into the wall socket
I beg to differ.
Art – be it paintings, or pictures, or sculpture, or books and movies: anything that requires a portion of your soul to complete, cannot seriously be considered a product. If you disagree, and that’s your right (and the basis of the rating system, I suppose), tell me Moby Dick, or, A Tale of Two Cities was the product of someone’s imagination, and I’ll laugh at you.
Products are tangible things you can hold in your hand. Yes, you can hold a book in your hand; but you could never hold that story at your fingertips, absent those pages: it would slip away from you as soon as you started to try and own it, because you can’t. It’s not yours, and will never be. It was immortalized in print, for your enjoyment, for the world to appreciate; but it will forever belong to the author who wrote it.
So, back to my commentary on reviews…
They don’t matter. Some will like your work, and some will not. Some will give you praise, and others will say your characters lack depth. Gather one-hundred people in an open field and ask them to describe what animal they see in the clouds. You’ll get at least fifty answers, unless there’s an obvious white Rhino that seventy-five of the one-hundred saw. Then, the remaining twenty-five percent will claim it’s a Hippo, and not a terribly convincing Rhino at all, because the horn drifted away on the wind.
And then it’s down to who you believe. Don’t get me started on that.
Believe in what you write. Ignore everyone else, unless they agree, of course.