I feel like there's an unspoken truth with artists, creative people, and hacks like me. Nobody really knows how to respond to criticism. It's the classic slut or prude dilemma, and it's hard not to take a hard-line stance on the matter. I mean, it's simple as fuck, actually, but there wouldn't be much of an article if I approached the subject pragmatically, now would there? So, for the sake of my word count, you have a few options here.
The Slut. Also known as The Rian Johnson. Formerly also known as the Kevin Feige, but who the Hell wants to remember that guy? They're the sluts. This approach is the most destructive for oneself and one's reputation. Basically, what you do is dismiss any and all criticism as that of trolls (or if you're an oldhead, the “h8rs”). Obviously, you made all the right choices because if they weren't the right choices, why would you make them? Don't bother using reason to defend yourself, though. Avoid any real criticism at all costs. This style calls for ad hominems and broad generalizations about people who dislike your work. They probably just don't agree with your politics 'cause they're fuckin' nazis. Might even be Russian bots. Clearly, no reasonable person wouldn't like something that a master of the craft such as yourself gifted the world with. Shit, if your Goodreads rating was one star higher, Bernie might actually be in the White House by now. Nevermind how it affects your career. You have an ego to uphold. You have a platform, a fucking pulpit, and you're gonna use it. In the short run, you look petty getting into scrabbles with fans on Twitter. In the long run, well, let's take a look at Exhibit A. Oh? Kevin Feige made that A Simple Favor movie? Huh. I knew there was a reason Anna Kendrick was in something and I didn't have the impulse to jerk off to it. Well, it didn't say “From the Director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Ghostbusters Answer the Call” or advertise his input, so we'll just pretend he's floundering. (Seriously, though. Life's not fair. Jodorowsky struggled for financing for years and that guy gets another chance?) So, that leave Mrs. Johnson. Let's be real, his Star Wars trilogy isn't happening. Shit, he's “known for” Looper on IMDB and not The Last Jedi. Wut. (If there was any justice in the world, he'd be known for Brick, which is a legitimately great film. This is not to be confused with the James Gunn or Roseanne Barr, who were ostracized for comments not about their work. For a better third wheel example, see the J.K. Rowling.
The prude. Marilyn Manson has some quote about art dying once it becomes dictated by the audience. There's a kernel of truth in there, but most people who listened to his later albums would probably cite those as examples to discredit such a stance. (I enjoy them all, but that's beside the point.) I'd offer a better example of this but I'm not actually going to put any research into this article. It's gonna be a shorter paragraph because this example isn't as embarrassing or as entertaining as the slut. People don't take notice of the prude, whereas everyone's talking about what (and who) the slut did at the party Friday night. Nobody cares if the prude showed up at all, because there's no cheap entertainment to be gained from her. In short, you don't engage in any criticism whatsoever. Your work and the criticism of it are parallel lines. They can say what they wanna say but you're just gonna keep doing what you do. This isn't a bad approach, but you do risk missing out on valid criticism. You might keep up an enigmatic or “superior” reputation, someone whose engagement is a social privilege. Most likely, though, people will probably just think you're stuck up, even if that isn't true.
The obvious. You pick your battles. You engage in conversations you feel are worth having respectfully and without talking down to others. The key to this is to listen to all perspectives but only follow the advice that you find valuable. You're not a pushover but you're not gonna be getting into any turf wars, either. There might be some Iagos in your midst, but if you play your cards right, you'll carry on your path without too many snake bites. (That's a mixed metaphor if I've ever seen one.) It's about self-respect and respecting those who give your work the time of day. You can benefit from listening to your audience...and you'll inevitably piss them off when you put your foot down, but it's all in the best interest of the final product. You're not perfect, but neither are your readers. You're equals and shit. You make mistakes but are willing to learn from them. More text leading into a proper conclusion to the article that doesn't just sound like a structural obligation.
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