seven months: i loved the non-linear & abstract writing i was doing. & the most prolific i’ve been in years. but he told me, more or less, ‘give it up. time to give it up. oh, i do so prefer your more linear, statement-writing instead’ (the basic statement, manifesto or ESSAY easily understood by all).
of course that person was like that; devaluing what most considered my otherwise progressive & inventive work. i had to question his motives. he was competitive. he would never give a compliment without some variety of dismissive rejoinder – especially if it encroached on his limelight.
i often thought: what would the world be like if there was only one type of writing? surely the aim wasn’t unselfish: eliminate all attempts of attaining the new apart from his own? he once related: ‘you do have some good attributes; you’re a good audience member.’
i have had some experience with Negative Imaging. i view this very strongly. the manifestation of low self-esteem often belies some negative-imaging done in the past. -which is to say, not constructive criticism. i have had two such harsh critics from the past who were not professional critics.
i should state here that since i’m not a NAME, since i’m (for the most part) unpublished; & that i pretty much do all this for nothing, i should be beyond criticism. like most writers, i am prolific enough – more bad than good, & stowed away in countless folders. the only reason i’m not ‘mediocre’ is because i’m not in the GAME.
mediocre isn’t this wincing valley of bad & failed work; it is, ironically, completed & successful work that is read, published & usually notable in some degree. many don’t understand mediocrity. it is the result of time & labor, that merely achieves a middle-ground; but not greatness. a mediocre piece can even move the emotions. there is nothing wrong with being merely entertaining, inventive, playful & progressive. does one expect a salmon rushdie from a rod mckuen?
likewise, it is ineffectual for mediocrity to criticize mediocrity; it of the same pool. a writer cannot grow from such comments if the critic inhabits the same middle-ground. should greatness even be expected or taught? it simply appears. it is almost never cultivated. you cannot suggest it …
mediocrity should not strive to be great. it is this desire that encourages less-than-creative competition. although this variety of critic, to his credit, will always preach perseverance. but in the end, if not the beginning, they will inform you that you are limited. a teacher wouldn’t say this but a critic would.
what motivates a critic? what portion of their job is helpful & what part of their job is sizing-up-the-competition? & critics should not be in the trade. they should do what then is their job: produce constructive criticism apart from product. let them teach then; let them labor in the progressive & noble role of contrasting & comparing. yet they want to push them to the next step, just not in the same town! that ‘critic’ may also want to write; they may have an old manuscript between the bookcase & the wastebasket…
though a critic is not entirely against abstract & nonlinear. unfortunately they know that the market is usually limited to the novel, short-stories, essays, nonfiction, or even epic poems & libretto. they claim to be realistic. ‘let someone else forge new writing so we can all dive in, only after it’s been established.’ critics want to make discoveries (& take the credit) – they long to be taste-makers/they have ulterior motives!
my response is: i have now been published three times from working seven months in these formats. yet the critic argues ‘it’s not mainstream.’ -you know, mainstream like steinbeck or hemmingway … ‘-but that’s outrageous – they were so great!’ no they weren’t. & that’s my point: innovators had to stay off to the edge. ‘-but surely these artists were finally appreciated…’ no, actually, they weren’t. go to the library – go to the second-hand/did they survive?
you have to dig deep – for inspiration, & in your own work. these folks have done a bang-up job burying the work of artists so you can’t find them. & i’ll tell you this: they walk among us! they’ll tell you that they are looking for the New, but they refuse to showcase it. if you bury the Next Big Thing then you can achieve a wide middle-ground. -why does it have to be so wide? so one cannot tell the difference between mediocre & GREAT – & everyone can play.
‘-just get out of my way because i got a dusty manuscript i want to pass off as the Next Big Thing!’ critics, bless their hearts, don’t actually know what the world wants. they’re like the Borg; stealing & assimilating culture – trying to forge the same crap into the same pressed-wood bookcases. -it’s just like Tooey in the Fountainhead …
you know, you can’t argue with a HOBBY. you cannot argue with the timeless pursuit of mindless busywork. you can’t repackage & judge mediocrity. nor can you expect mediocrity to lead & inspire the masses. you cannot appeal to the masses – they resent it.
i really do wish a genuine non-trade critic would emerge with suggestions that don’t apply to what-worked-before. i would often walk away from these realistic ‘sessions;’ review the world of abstract & nonlinear writing & forget all about the ‘critic.’ for this reason these people cannot actually discourage anyone. they cannot alter anyone’s inspiration. they can only allot a temporary ‘value.’ all these pundits can do is compare your work with some other work.
Copyright © 2002 by D.C. La Terre