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Art, Critics, and Writing

As I mention naughty bits and some mature concepts in this essay, this may not be suitable for the kiddies.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni's sculpture of David is undeniably breathtaking. I have seen an authentic replica at the Smithsonian and to see the real item--even if a copy--speaks much of the masterful work that went into its creation. And like all art, its interpretation is mostly subjective.

210px-Michelangelo's_DavidI have read essays on David's face, his pose, his penis, his overall nudity, and the sculpture as a whole. I have read essays claiming the statue is a hymn to homo-eroticism, an anti-Semitic statement, a discourse in stone on the artist's political position, and a cypher.

Like most art, it all depends on the perspective where you stand and the bias you bring to the work and since Michelangelo did not elaborate on how he wanted the viewer to interpret his work, we are left with our own differing definitions.

In my own case, I have written stories that some people have loved and others have detested. Some stories that I wrote in a serious vein have reduced an audience to gales of laughter during a public reading and vice versa. Some editors have gobbled up a story in days while others have encouraged me to take a hammer to my word processor.

Having received decades of rejection letters, I have become mostly immunized against rejection, but the rejection that hurts the most is from those we hold near and dear because at that point it is possible to not see the criticism as directed at the work, but at one's self.

Art is risk. Writing is dangerous. Facing rejection is part of the game and sometimes the people whose opinion we value the most may be our worst critics.

But my point is if you write pablum, you are little more than a hack. Pablum goes down smooth and quick and is easily forgotten.

Now I'm, not promoting writing simply for the excuse of being edgy. I think a lot of modern horror with its splatterpunk nihilism is quickly forgotten. Yes, it's edgy. It titillates. Weeks later you can't even remember reading it so a gorefest is nothing more than pablum as well.

Yet, good writing stays with me. It forces me to think and consider and explore. They are stories I like to read again and again.

So, I try to write stories as well that are worth reading and rereading, but the merit of a story and its readability is determined by the individual readers, not by me.

And some people despise what I write.

And some people love what I write.

And I write nonetheless regardless of praise or condemnation because I am a writer. And, therefore, I have to write without apology and I have to write the story that I want to write. I trust myself not to write meaningless garbage or porn even though there are those who interpret my writing as such. It depends on their perspective, not mine.

Do I listen to my critics? Yes, and I would encourage you to do so as well. Listen to your critics: once. Consider what they say and if their complaint is that your writing did not make them feel safe, write anyway.

If they attack you personally and not the work, write anyway.

If they critique their interpretation of the work which is not your interpretation or the interpretation of the majority of your readers, write anyway. (Note: My seminal work, Coventry House, was accused of being thinly disguised lesbian porn. As it was the opinion of one person amongst the thousands that have read the story, the critic, in my humble opinion, was safely ignored.)

Basically, if you can say before God and humanity that you wrote a piece with integrity and honor and pure motive and it comes from your heart, write it.

You will have your fans and your critics. It comes with the territory because to create automatically puts you at risk.

Write anyway.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Louis Williams
Dec. 2nd, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
Art, Critics and writing
You're opinion here expressed is one that I haven't heard much. You're completely write about listening to critics. Too much I hear never listen to them. But I've learned as a writer if I'm to grow than I need to know my faults: I need to hear what other people say.

Of course you have to filter the chaff from the wheat. I've had critics who have expanded my mind to possibilities. I've also had critics whose entire statements I was able to boil down to "your opinion doesn't match mine. I don't like you."

Anyway, I know you've seen A LOT more of that than I have.

I just wanted to say I agree with the critics portion. And works like David are left without statement because it is what it is. People often see parts of themselves reflected in it, and that's why it divides people so much.
Dec. 3rd, 2013 03:32 am (UTC)
Art, Critics, & Writing
When in high school I was fortunate enough to go on a tour of Italy and saw the original David, man bits and all. What I also saw were many, many other great works of art where the genitalia had been chopped off and replaced with stylized fig leaf sculpture. That is criticism indeed.

I agree with your thesis, that being Keep Writing. In all the "how to write" books I've read, the last pages usually say, Write for yourself. Write what you want to write. Write what you have to write. I can't find a reference, but once I heard a variation of the H.L. Mencken quote, Those who can do, those who can't teach, and those who can't teach become critics. It's amusing, but I would say that for criticism to be worth anything, it must be constructive. Destructive criticism too quickly devolves into a revelation about the critic and not the work being criticized.

My first novel, Rollerman (Kindle eBook), is a Christian science fiction novel, so it is disqualified as science fiction because it allows for a Living God. It is also disqualified as a Christian novel because its characters have the indignity to behave as humans and not pure little altar boys. Critics try to pigeonhole everything in order to control their world. True artists, be they sculptors, or writers, or painters, or musicians blow holes in the boundaries of the universe of complacency. - D.F. Huettner
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )