Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Ode to Creators

by Laurie K.

Sometimes when we're wrangling over whether we liked that latest Hollows book or whether the US or UK version of Being Human is better, we tend to lose sight of the reason we have these things to grouse about - the creative people who crafted them for us. Genre folks especially tend to get caught up in their likes, dislikes, nerdrage and geek obsessions. So, I'm taking a moment here to give love to all those people who make the content we enjoy.

I love you, creative type people. You give me novels that challenge me or lift me up or take me places that never were and never will be - and let's be glad about that last one because I often like very dark distopian work. You give me characters that I love (or love to hate) in my favorite books, movies and TV shows.  Every piece of a movie, from the story to the characters to the costumes and right on down to the placing of the props is the work of creative people. The art I might not understand or know how to properly appreciate is another thing creative people gift us with and whether I get it or not, good job. You give me music that I love to sing along with (poorly) when I'm driving in my car. Lately, you've given me Yaoi and I appreciate that, too, even though I feel slightly weird about it.

Most of all, I appreciate the way you put yourselves out there with every effort. I could never do what you do, even if I had the aptitude.

Think you're (wo)man enough to be a professional creative type? Hop on over to Amazon and read some book reviews. Holy shit, people are harsh. Imagine having to please a plethora of those people with your work again and again in order to have a lucrative career. Yikes. Imagine working on a project for 6 months or a year or ten years and always knowing in the back of your mind that there's the possibility of people saying, "Man, that is the shittiest, most trite, unoriginal piece of crap I've ever seen!" Or, worse, having them go, "Meh, it was okay, I guess." Creative work is entirely subjective. You can employ superlative craftsmanship and still your success is based on people 'liking' your work. Whatever that means.

I follow a lot of authors on Twitter and I'm always blown away by just how insane I'd be driven by their careers. Asshole fans don't bother me - we call those 'users' in my line of work. But the idea that you have to create entire realities on a schedule is mind-boggling to me. "Can you please have this galaxy constructed by May 1st?" "I'd like you to schedule some inspiration in the second week of August." "Have you figured out how to make that serial killer just a little more likable? All those murders, you know?" Channeling the chaos of imagination into a structured piece of work in a predefined amount of time seems like magic to me.

Everything I do is specific and measurable. Design a system that does x, y, and z for this audience. Write a script that does a, b, and c using an industry standard language. How do I know if the script worked? It exits with a 0 for good and a 1 for bad. I can take creative approaches to my problems, but at the end of the day, the feedback I receive is entirely objective - it worked or it didn't. Computers don't have to 'like' your work for it to be a success. (Which thank goodness for that, because I work primarily on Unix. It can smell weakness.)

In closing, I just want to say thank you, creative people, for all the cool stuff you work so hard to give us. I'm sorry for people who are jerks to you about it and would gladly break their fingers for you. Please keep giving us more good stuff in the future. You are greatly appreciated.
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  1. It's hard not to comment on this article after the resent fiasco with one of my new favorite authors.

    I don't understand how "fans" can be so harsh sometimes. If someone is creating something I love dearly then I support them. Sometimes there are things by them I don't like as much as others and I will state why, but I will NEVER get belligerent about it.

    Yes, even the new author I like greatly had a book I didn't care for, but I didn't want to go around throwing harsh names and screaming on the net. I stated why I wasn't a huge fan of said book and moved on.

    People need to stop feeling entitled to such things.

    1. Are you thinking of the way Seanan McGuire got treated recently over Amazon's mistakenly shipping her book early? Because that was a big reason I posted this.

      I just shake my head at how some people act, and I figured intsead of being like, "GRAGH, I WILL STAB YOU ALL!" I'd take the more positive angle instead. (But I would really like to stab them all.)

    2. That pissed me off too. Also when Lilith Saintcrow was sent e-mails that she wasn't "allowed" to write characters who weren't tough kickass UF chicks. You don't have to like everything an author writes, but you also don't get to tell them WHAT to write. Stopping now before I get ranty and want to punch something.

      I appreciate your ode, Laurie!

    3. That is exactly what I was referring to when I posted. And being positive to her and negative to them at the same time is possible....and a mutual feeling.

  2. This is really just lovely. Thanks :)