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Foot in Mouth Disease

So, I did an interview for CBR. Nice fellow named Robert Taylor conducted it. You can read it here if you’re so inclined.

I did something I normally would never do in it, which is I actually went so far as to criticize my fellow 52 writers as well as myself. Minor criticism, to be sure, and nothing that I think was particularly dangerous, edgy, daring, or otherwise hurtful.

But we writers are such a sensitive goddamn lot I’m now beginning to wish I hadn’t said anything other than the standard, “These guys are the GREATEST!!!” I haven’t received any angry calls, mind; Waid hasn’t come after me with his well-honed axe, and Geoff hasn’t rung up with a “dude, not cool.” All the same, I’ve made myself uncomfortable by doing this, and now I’m left to wonder why.

And it’s not that hard to see, frankly. These guys are my peers, and more, I honestly think of them as my friends (my very dear friends, in fact). I’d hate to think I said anything to hurt their feelings, anything that could be misconstrued (even given the lengths I went to in the interview to assure that precisely that didn’t happen) as mean-spirited or lacking respect for them or their craft.

But that’s only part of it. The other part of it is that I’ve broken an Unwritten Law, one that stretches all the way back to my first writing classes. I’ve offered criticism, and even if it was constructive and mild, it opens me up for the same.

Which is bullshit. The paradox of writing for a living is that people are going to read what you write, and some of them (maybe a lot of them) Are Not Going To Like It.

You have to learn to deal with it, and the key word here is ‘learn’ and not ‘deal.’ It’s an ongoing process, and I don’t know a single writer who isn’t stung by criticism of their work, no matter how minor, infantile, or incompetent the source. It may not be a major sting, it may not last, but I continue to find it amazing that some Net Troll who offers his unsolicited and uneducated “review” of my work can bother me almost as much as a bad review from, say, Kirkus.

Another thing that comes with the territory.

I’ve thought about this a lot, in fact, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the only writers out there who are not affected by criticism in some way, shape, or form are writers I want nothing to do with. Because those are the writers who have no doubts about their work, which in turn means they believe their work has no room for improvement.

Writing is a growth form. You MUST get better at it, or at least you must strive to. More than anything, believing you know everything you need to know, that you do not need to hone your craft further, that you do not need, for instance, an editor…that’s the kiss of fucking death.

And I never want to be that writer. That writer scares me.

7 Responses to Foot in Mouth Disease

  1. gabbicus

    The link doesn’t work.

  2. admin

    Fixed it!

  3. editor_lass

    At the risk of impertinence: Hi, Greg. I’m Michele Carter, the D&D RPG editor that Eric mentioned to you. The short version is that I’m a big, big fan of all of your work, and since Eric mentioned that you were a fan of D&D, it would be my pleasure to present you with a stack of books at Emerald City ComicCon. If there’s anything specific that you’d like, just say the word.

    (BTW, saw you were posting off of Eric’s lj and do not intend to be stalker-riffic. I may be a fangirl, but try not to “tee” or “hee.” Much.)

    Regarding the CBR article, your reservations are commendable but speaking as a fan: Your honesty was a refreshing change from the usual rote puff pieces, so thanks for that.

    Also, as an editor may I just say that I felt your pain about the lettering on issue #42. You know, the irony is that I spoke to Steve Wacker at San Diego ComicCon, thanking him for his great work…and that was *before* 52 started. I’ve had nothing but respect and admiration for DC’s (by which I mean the writers, editors, and production staff) success at pulling off this tremendous weekly. I know exactly how much work it must have taken, and it’s an astonishing achievement.

    (Is it lunchtime yet? No, and I’m already twitchy for my weekly fix.)

    – man, it’s hard not to babble at you. Okay, my fangirl moment: Cannot wait to see what becomes of Renee, she’s been a favorite since she first appeared. And this is the kind of thing I would tell you at the con, only I know I’ll forget, so there’s also this: Over in Checkmate, when it was revealed that Sasha had hooked up with Michael, I laughed and laughed. Because clearly, between Bruce and Michael, the girl has a TYPE — tall, dark, and no discernable sense of humor. Ahhh, character consistency, my favorite thing.

    Thanks for all your work. It’s always a happy day when there’s one of your efforts in the comic or book pile.

  4. admin

    Hi, Michele! I would LOVE to connect with you at the con. I’ll poke Trautmann and see if I can’t get a less public means of communication out of him so we can speak further.

    And thank you for the very kind words. Your read on Sasha is spot on, of course.

  5. davesbu

    wow, great advice there Greg. By the way, I’m new here, name’s Dave and I’m also afraid of being that writer you speak of here. Thanks for the great advice and the amazing job you’ve been doing on all of your comics.

  6. admin

    Hey, Dave!

    Fear is good. Fear keeps you honest. Fear is a motivator. Most of the brilliant writers I know live in their own constant state of terror about their work.

    Thanks for your kind words!

  7. davesbu

    yeah, my editor gives me a hard time because i take so long to finish something. Because I’m afraid she’s going to rip it to shreads, which she usually does anyway after I’m done. Thanks again, and have you taken a giant nap a la Santa after this year?

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