Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Right? Wrong? Wha? Why 'don't judge' is more than a saying to me — it's a way of life

I saw this article on Huffington Post that got me to thinking (and over-thinking) about this. It struck a cord with me because I am surrounded by judgmental, critical people. Friends. Family. Co-workers. Nothing wrong with that. It's just their way. Shoot, we're all judgmental in our own ways, aren't we? It's a part of being human.

That said, I’m not a very critical person. That’s a fact. I’ve tried hard to be more critical because of the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and…I didn’t like how it made me feel and the experiences to which it limited me. So I stopped. Cold turkey. Or tried to anyway.

Now I’m wondering, is my mostly non-critical mind what’s holding me back from being a truly great writer?

If so, well, crap.

I love movies, and I love books. You’ll rarely hear me say anything negative about either because that’s just how I am. I prefer to acknowledge the “good” and overlook any “bad” I find in these things. That’s kind of a general rule with me — the only exceptions being when I’m PMSing or suffering from a migraine. Then nothing is good. Nothing! But mostly, I like to think I see the good in things...well, okay, except maybe exercise, helping people move, and pencils (I hate pencils). But otherwise, I try to see the good. Hey! Don't roll your eyes at me. I'm human, remember?

And simply writing this post proves that I AM, in fact, capable of serious criticism and — darn it, I'm overthinking again. Back to my original point.

For example, I read THAT book everyone was talking about last year, and believe it or not, I did not hate it the way so many of my author friends and acquaintances have. My thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey” were simple. Good for her for finishing three really looooong novels and getting them published. Good for her for bringing attention to the genre. Good for her at creating very tangible chemistry between her hero and heroine. Good for her at writing a very well-done alpha hero. And I stopped before lamenting too much on any of the things I didn't like about it.

I can’t remember ever reading a book I didn’t at least like a little. I’m sure there is one, if I think back to school, but nothing comes immediately to mind.

Same thing with movies. I went through a mega-marathon of viewing “good” movies prior to the Academy Awards. I pretty much liked them all. But you know what? I still like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” way better than “Life of Pi.” I’ll still re-watch “Twilight” before I will “Silver Linings Playbook.”

I took Angela James’ BEFORE YOU HIT SEND workshop, which teaches you to be more critical in your self-editing. Perfect. Exactly what I need. And I’ve been employing Angela’s suggestions at self-editing, and my manuscript is really a better read now, at least in my opinion. Funny thing is, the biggest lesson I took away from that workshop is so common sense I felt beyond stupid when I had the epiphany. It also applies to everything and not just writing.

There is no “good” or “bad.” There is only preference.

Honestly, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like the same movies as I do — as long as they don't try to make me feel bad for liking what I like. My best friend hates “Twilight.” She also loves “High School Musical.” I thought “High School Musical” was okay. When she goes on and on about how bad “Twilight” is, I never hit back with well, you like “High School Musical” and it sucks! Um, at least I hope I never have. Okay, so I might have been PMSing that one time, but — you get the point. She likes what she likes. I like what I like. (For the record, yes, we are both adult women far into our 30s. Don't judge). It’s the same with my niece and nephew, who loooooove “Harry Potter.” They think it’s an extraordinary piece of literature. I read it and liked it okay, but I didn’t go beyond the first book because it just wasn’t my thing. I know I'm probably in the minority in feeling that way, but I do. I thought it was too archetypical. That’s also the reason I liked “Twilight” so much. Meyer broke so many conventional rules with vampires, I loved her creativity.

So, should I feel bad about myself? Am I making the "wrong" choice when I pick up a book that has only gotten negative reviews as opposed to that best-seller everyone loves? Should I hang my head in shame because I write romance novels instead of literary masterpieces?

Heck, no!

Why judge? Because that’s exactly what we do when we say “Ugh, that was a bad book” or “That movie was stupid.” One of my pet peeves is when someone turns up his or her nose at reading a particular book or seeing a movie because "it looks stupid." So what? You're limiting yourself and potentially missing out on something great. At least read/see the thing before you judge it. Geez.

I’m convinced that in this Internet age that encourages anyone to say what they like free of consequences, we’ve bred a generation of pretentious and judgmental critics. And yes, I realize that in making that comment I am also being judgmental and pretentious. Stop rolling your eyes! I already told you I could be as judgmental and critical as the next person, didn't I?!? No getting around that.

And another thing. I also dislike when people confuse critical consensus with objective truth. Too often I’ve heard someone say, “It’s the truth,” when no, actually, it’s only your personal preference or observation. When it comes to personal preference, there is no collective truth. Statistics don't apply; only feelings.

So, yes, being a mostly non-critical person in this judgmental world probably puts me at a disadvantage. It certainly makes me a fun and amusing target for those who don't share my views. I'll tell you straight up I'm not the best person to ask when it comes to feedback on books or movies, because I pretty much like everything. That makes me weird, certainly, but does it make me a really horrible writer?

Maybe.

I prefer to think not. You can disagree, and that’s okay.

Number one rule of publishing: It’s all a matter of preference anyway.

By the way, I really like my story. I've come to the conclusion that's all that matters. I'm ready to hit send now. Hopefully some lucky publisher who shares my tastes will love it, too. Wish me luck!
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