I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith. I recently discovered that his film Red State was on Netflix. Also on Netflix was a Q&A with Kevin Smith that had to do with Red State. So I watched both.
I really enjoy listening to Kevin Smith talk. He has a lot of interesting things to say about being an artist, or a creative person, that I identify with. One of the things that he talked about was fear. Apparently, Kevin Smith dealt with worrying about what critics thought about his work. Now I’ve never dealt with professional critics. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t worry a whole lot about what people think about my writing. Generally speaking the people who contact me directly, or write messages on my blog, on Facebook, or twitter are very positive. I figure it’s kind of like the way you don’t say nasty things about people to their faces. Instead you talk about them to other people. In my case that happens on places like goodreads or on Amazon reviews.
In no way do I want anyone to get the impression that I want to discourage people from honestly talking about the way they feel about my work. What I do want to do, however, is to find some way to keep their opinions from messing with head.
Kevin Smith said that he criticized the critics. And somehow this made him feel free of his fear.
I don’t think it would be a particularly good idea for me to criticize readers. After all, without readers I would be nowhere. Literally, I need readers. If it weren’t for readers, essentially I could just stand in front of my mirror and tell myself stories. There wouldn’t be any point in writing them down, because I wouldn’t need anyone to read them. But. I do. Need people to read what I write. That’s kind of the entire point. So I don’t want to criticize readers.
Still what Kevin Smith said made me long for a feeling of freedom that I haven’t felt since before anyone was reading what I wrote. So I decided to try to isolate exactly what it was that seems to paralyze me when I’m working through ideas. It didn’t take long to figure out what it was.
This might be the 21st century, but that doesn’t mean that a large portion society isn’t still completely repressed. I lost my job — or at any rate, I resigned from my job under pressure — because what I said in the classroom about sex made people uncomfortable. And I have a lot of reviews in various places from various people who were made uncomfortable by the sex in my books. Which is kind of funny, really, because there’s not very much sex in my books. I mean people have sex, and they talk about it, but there aren’t really, like, you know, very many sex scenes.
All I know is that whenever I get a new idea and some part of it has to do with sex, I get nervous. I wrack my brain trying to think of some way I can accomplish the same idea without involving sex. It’s driving me insane, because I don’t want to censor myself, but I’m afraid of what people will say.
So, even though I would never want to give the impression that I wanted people to stop giving their opinions of my work, and I would never want to criticize a reader, maybe I could publicly criticize repressed people. You can consider the following a public therapeutic statement from me:
The thing is sex makes some people uncomfortable. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the same reason that I don’t find farts all that funny. Maybe those people think certain bodily functions should never be discussed and that we should all pretend that those functions don’t exist. I guess I get that. But while people might think that fart jokes are crass, they wouldn’t get nearly as upset about them as they do about sex. For some people, sex is dangerous. They are afraid of it. And I’m afraid of them. Because for some stupid reason, I’ve allowed myself to care about what they think.
But, while I respect everyone’s right to her own opinion, the truth is being afraid of sex is kind of pathetic. It speaks to the possibility that a person is actually afraid of herself, of her own body, and of her own passions. Or perhaps, she’s afraid because she doesn’t have any passions. I don’t know. Either way, it’s really sad. I refuse to be frightened by people who are so pitiful anymore.
I’ve spent so much time wondering if something was wrong with me. I haven’t spent nearly enough time wondering if something was wrong with them. I’m not saying there is. But I am saying that there could be. That’s all. Maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s them.