The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: September 19th, 2001

Who Dare Sayeth I Suck?

By: Captain Zefram Mann

This is a "rant" I wrote for my own website some time back because I think it was something that needed to be said, but that few people were saying. Seeing as how I average oh... say... one visitor a week (oh well), I decided to submit a slightly updated version as a Lemures article to reach a larger audience.

I notice a disturbing trend among people who write fanfics and build web pages in tribute of their favorite anime and characters. The practice of devoting your time and effort in paying tribute to said anime is not without it's fanboyish nobility. However, in some cases a person will want to know how his work, whether it be the design of a web page, or the writing in a fanfic stacks up against his peers. Competition is a good thing if not taken too far. It's what drives people to excel at what they do. However, there is a difference between wanting a genuine evaluation of your work and wanting somebody to stroke your ego. I consider myself to be somewhat good at the former, and completely intolerant of the latter. People have asked me to judge their work as I have asked others to judge my own. I make a practice of bracing myself for the worst in either case. I have had people pick my site apart bit by bit telling me about bits of info they believe wrong, my policy toward my link page, as well as other aspects of the site. I welcome any constructive criticism because it could potentially mean a better site for my visitors and a better impression of my abilities. I, of course, don't change or alter anything until I check the facts and get another's opinion on the matter, but I do try to consider every point of view.

Silly of me to expect most others to act with at least that level of rationality. I've had others threaten to flame me (which I welcome if it spices up the letterpage) because I didn't tell them that their work was as great as they thought it was. News flash people, none of us are quite as good as we'd like to think we are. It's a fact of life. As my mom, the absolute picture of ladylike eloquence, says... "Everybody thinks their sh*t smells like roses." Nice eh? I had to grow up with that. But the point is, that we can't always trust ourselves (or our friends and loved ones) to give us an honest and unbiased opinion about what we do. If somebody does give me a fair, well thought out opinion of my work then that person has earned my respect, because I know that they do so at their own risk. When I went to art school and I was looking at a fellow students Batman drawing I told him, "Nice, you need a little work on your anatomy though."

His response, "Thanks for the insult!"

What? What the Hell did I do besides try to help this guy? I made a decision then and there to never, ever, tell somebody what I think of their work unless they specifically ask me to do so. I don't have the time or patience to explain to people that I don't hate them personally because I think there are ways for them to improve. If invited to do so, though, I will be glad to share my opinions to help somebody. If you're a writer or webmaster and you put "e-mail questions or comments" anywhere then you have to expect that it won't always be as favorable as you hoped. Of course you don't have to, nor should you have to, take a flame seriously. Those don't count. Flames are sent by people who want to hurt you, critiques by people who want to help you. There's a big difference between "Your stuff sucks!" and "Your sense of pacing needs improvement."

I also realize that not all fic writers are have a lot of age or experience behind them. That's understandable. However, if you do put your work on an archive with the best fic writers out there, then you should know that that's how some people are going to judge your work. If you're young and you don't get the best reaction then give yourself some time. Read and look at the work of others (not just fic writers but aclaimed genre authors) and try to learn what they did right. Somewhere around ninety percent of what I learned about writing came from reading.

There's no big universal secret other than being a careful observer, learning from what you observe, then applying it to what you do.

Oh yeah, and developing a thick skin doesn't hurt either.

Comments on this article can be sent to: Captain Zefram Mann.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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