Monday, October 24, 2011

The Post in which our Heroine Defends the Working Creative*

Since I've been asked to write more (and by "asked" I mean by one person; hey, it's enough), I'm writing more, and I'm writing about an issue that's been rattling around in my head for a while. (And by "for a while" I mean since 5 am when my brain decided it had had enough of that sleep bullshit.)

If there is someone out there producing creative work that you like, work that you read/listen to/watch, and that work is less involved than it used to be, or the quality has slipped, or the production slows to a crawl (ahem), or it takes a turn you don't like, or goes in a direction you don't like, or you just flat-out prefer the way that creator used to do things: STFU.

No. Seriously. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I will make an exception for situations where the creator asks specifically for feedback on the new direction/look/style/hat/whatever. Did the creator say, "Hey! How do you guys like this new direction? I'd love your feedback"? Yes? Awesome! Send her/him an email. Hell, send a thousand emails detailing every last thought in your head! Include graphs and diagrams to illustrate your point. That's what s/he wants.

However, unless your opinion is requested, specifically requested, unless you hear those magic words "what do you think," keep your fool mouth closed.

I'm going to let you in on a little Trade Secret here. (PROTIP TIME!) Ready? Aside from a very, very VERY small percentage of us who are insanely talented/lucky/both, most of us make NO MONEY creating the stuff we share with you.

Yeah. I know. It's hard to believe, but most of that free content you enjoy on the internet brings no actual money to the person creating it. Zero. Ziltch. Nadda. Crazy, isn't it? I mean, even those of us who are mildly famous, who are respected and well known in our niche circles aren't rich. (I am NOT including myself in that group, FYI. I'm not even mildly noteworthy.) Fuck, even those people REALLY well-known in niche circles aren't banking mad coin.

"Ok. So what," you say. "What does that have to do with the topic at hand? MAKE SENSE, WOMAN!"

It means, that most of the time when there's a noticeable shift in theme, or when there's a retooling, or when there's a pulling back of effort or energy into a project, it's because the creator needs to pull back for reasons that have nothing to do with the work s/he is creating.

Remember a million years ago when I was doing those awesome, full-color steampunk comics? Those were neat, weren't they? Yeah. They should be. They also took me 10+ hours to do. I was staying up until 4 am to finish the comics, and getting up at 7 to be at work. While I was working 45-48+ hours a week. While I was stressed out because I was the only one with a job in our household. While I was trying to work out how to grieve another death in my family. And while a million other little things got in the way.

I would have LOVED to keep doing comics like that. Hell, I tried. Instead, what I did manage to do was break myself. I broke my update schedule, lost the majority of my audience, and generally made an ass out of myself as a cartoonist. (I make an ass out of myself as a person all the time, but that's a different entry.) Years later, and I'm still trying to work out how to get back to working on the comic regularly and still be a happy, functioning member of society. Relatively speaking, of course.

I'm not saying you have to like whatever new direction you don't like. Not at all. Hell, you can loathe it. You can hate it with the burning hot fires of 1,000 Tatooine suns. Shit son, liking the "old" stuff better is so common it's cliche (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NewSoundAlbum &http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheyChangedItNowItSucks). But TRUST ME, you don't need to tell us that. We'll notice. We'll see our site traffic slow, our audience dwindle and our Facebook likes evaporate. We check that kind of shit. In fact, we check that kind of shit compulsively. We will notice. And, if we're able, we'll change for the better.

And you know what? If the quality has been lacking, we know that too. Creative people are the most critical motherfuckers of their own work in the known universe. If you could harness that self-loathing, and convert it into a viable energy source, we could run the planet on it.

Being emotionally invested in a piece of work does not mean that you get an automatic pass to voice your opinion. I know it seems harsh to say that, especially if you love something, especially when you've loved something from the beginning, but that's the way it is.

Real Life gets in the way. It gets in the way a lot. And no amount of snide commentary, bitchy emails, or entrities to do things they way they used to be done will change that. In fact, it's more likely to do the opposite. It's far easier to quit than to pour your money, energy, blood, sweat, and bile into what is, essentially, an unpaid part-time job. And no one wants that. Not you, the audience, and not me, the creator. We create this shit because we love it and we want to share it with other people who will love it too.

Don't ruin it for all of us.

*Know that by "Working Creative," I mean someone who creates work that you enjoy who also holds down a job not related to the work which you enjoy. For a blog post defending the Professional Creative, see Neil Gaiman's much better "George RR Martin is not your bitch" post.

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