I don’t take criticism about my writing very well. I’d go so far as to say I take it worse than anyone else ever. The only time I take it well is if I’ve read something the critiquer has written and liked it. Then I trust their opinion, and am desperately seeking their approval, so I’ll do anything they tell me to do. Kill it with fire? Definitely, you’re so right, sorry. Sorry I wrote that.
If you asked me in person how I feet about “constructive criticism” in general, I’d lie and tell you, “Oh, I love constructive criticism, how else do you ever get better?” But deep down, I’m saying, “There is rarely such thing as ‘constructive’ criticism. And shut up, because I hate it.”
The point is, for the first time ever, someone openly told me that they do not enjoy reading this blog.
Because of the moderate to extreme unsuccess that is Bumblekee.com–despite my constantly telling people the URL and talking myself up–I have only received lots of “LOL!” and “funny, gurl!” remarks from all four of you lovely and beloved readers, all of whom I know personally (special thanks to my mom, second only in fandom to Rebecca LaChance). So when someone didn’t like it, I was not only blindsided, but self-righteously pissed.
I went out for drinks with a person who I used to spend a lot of time with, but a number of months ago, we decided to stop spending time together because we’re at complete odds on just about every important and unimportant topic two human beings can discuss. It seemed like we had mutually made this unspoken decision that it would be cool to see each other again, enough time had passed since our last brawl, etc.
We were both gravely mistaken.
I’m going to call this person Spike, because I’ve been re-watching all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and our relationship is a lot like theirs, minus the more gruesome murder attempts. I’m not going to call myself Buffy, because I do not wish to blaspheme. Our catch-up conversation went like this:
Spike: How’s business?
Keely: Business? I’m working lots of small jobs and trying to get other writing jobs. I started a blog. You should read it. It’s the only kind of productive thing I’ve done since we talked last.
Spike: I’ll never read it.
Keely: What? Why?
Spike: I’m just trying to be honest with you, I don’t read blogs.
Keely: I don’t either, but I just try to write funny stuff on my blog. It isn’t serious, or about cooking. Here. [pulls out iPhone] Read some of it, you’ll chuckle.
[Spike reads some of it, chuckles once, and halfheartedly smiles a couple times.]
Keely: Funny right?
Spike: Yeah, it’s alright. I mean, why does it matter?
Spike: Well, I was reading it, and I thought, like, why write this?
Keely: Uhh…I don’t know, because it’s funny?
Spike: Yeah, but what does it mean?
Keely: What do you mean, ‘what does it mean?’
Spike: It seems pointless, it doesn’t seem very ‘you.’
Keely: …what? It is so ‘me.’
Spike: I had almost this exact conversation with someone else today.
Keely: So then why is the problem with my writing? Maybe the problem is with you.
Spike: No, it’s you. It seems like you’re putting on airs, like you’re trying to be “funny Keely,” but you’re already funny.
Keely: Do you want me to write something I could submit to Time? On world hunger?
Spike: No. Why don’t you write about yourself?
Keely: I write about myself all the time, it’s all I write about! Look, I think you should read more.
Spike: I’m really not going to.
Keely: WHY NOT?
Spike: Because it isn’t ‘you,’ and I think maybe the reason–nevermind.
Keely: No. Say it.
Spike: Forget it.
Keely: You say it.
Spike: I really shouldn’t.
Keely: JUST SAY IT.
Spike: Maybe it’s the reason you haven’t been getting writing jobs.
[Silence. Keely tries to begin subtly chugging her drink so that she can run outside and punch everyone on 7th Avenue. Spike reaches out to rub Keely’s arm in a kind of “sorry” gesture.]
Keely: Don’t. Touch. Me.
Spike: GOD, why can’t you just take a little constructive criticism?
Keely: Oh, I love constructive criticism, how else do you ever get better?!
Spike: Then why is this such a big deal? I do whole write-ups for my friend, and he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever met.
Keely: I don’t want a write-up from you.
Spike: You can’t take even the slightest criticism.
Keely: No, I can, I just don’t want your constructive criticism.
Spike: I know that.
Keely: I put a lot of work into that writing.
Spike: And you’re proud of it?
Keely: Yeah. I am.
Spike: Then why don’t you want to make it better? I care about you, I want to see you succeed.
Keely: It’s fine how it is.
Spike: I have the worst taste in women. I go for these women who don’t care about my opinions, or actions–
Keely: Then why are you talking?
Spike: I DON’T KNOW–look, when I was in an acting class, my scene partner told me during an exercise, “Wow, you’re so full of shit.” And my immediate reaction was, “What? No I’m not!”
Keely: OH, so you’re saying I’m full of shit?
Spike: No–well, you are. But that isn’t what I’m saying.
Keely: THAT’S WHAT YOU JUST FUCKING SAID.
Spike: LISTEN! He was right! I put on this facade, because I’m afraid of rejection; because I’m attractive and charming and charismatic–
Keely: Dear GOD, and I’m the conceited one?
Spike: I’m not conceited, all of that is just true. I am. Anyway, I went on a couple of really awful dates.
Keely: Really nice segue.
Spike: Oh! I smoke now.
Keely: Disgusting. Why?
Spike: I always wanted to.
Keely: That’s fucking stupid. [Enter waitress] Can we have our separate checks, please?
We spent the time between asking for the check and walking out the door talking about a couple of disaster dates he went on, how cold it had gotten, etc.
On my walk home, I kept muttering made-up obscenities under my breath, because no derogatory term that existed was bad enough. For some reason, this person who I didn’t even know that well anymore had gotten my goat. My goat was had, it was practically his goat now. I felt like, for the first time in a while, maybe I wasn’t actually a very good writer. The only people who I let read my stuff are people who care about me, and about my feelings. Spike doesn’t really care about my feelings most of the time–maybe he was a microcosm of what anyone who didn’t know me and read my writing would think.
I needed an ego boost, but I knew my mom was already asleep. I texted my friend, “YOU LIKE MY BLOG, RIGHT?’ to which she dutifully responded, “yes.” I didn’t text anyone else, I already begged for my friends’ approval of my writing too much–way too much.
So I did something desperate; something humiliating and degrading; something that I’d like to blame almost entirely on my recently rejuvenated Buffy fanaticism.
I went to a New York City psychic, and paid her to read my palm.
My fated psychic spoke with a strong Brooklyn accent, a la My Cousin Vinny. I could hear her many children screaming up the stairs, but for some reason, I decided that she had to know what she was doing, because in Ghost, Whoopi Goldberg thought she was a scam psychic, but then discovered that she really could connect to the mystic otherworld. This woman looked nothing like Whoopi Goldberg, but I figured, maybe she’ll feel like because I’m paying her, she has to say nice things. So, I held out my hand.
“You’re a kind and giving person, you have an open heart.”
Goddamn right I am.
“You’ll die of natural causes at a very old age. I see you living a very long life without disease.”
Great. I’ll outlive the bastard.
“7 years ago you was devastated by something.”
Bad grammar–that was, what? 2005? Well, 2004 since the New Year just happened–shit, I’m missing what she’s saying.
“This was a draining year for you, three months ago you was spiritually damaged.”
Bad grammar–what was I doing in October? Or does she mean November? Does January count as one of the three months?–shit, I’m missing what she’s saying.
“In March, something for both your career and love life will happen that will have you happily set for the next five years. But it’s not going to happen unless you figure out what’s poisoning your spirit, your soul, and all your interactions with other people.”
“If you don’t mind me saying, you’re depressed, you have some kind of spiritual blockage that’s preventing you from happiness.”
Oh my God.
“You’re like a pretty building, smiling on the outside, but inside there’s nothing. Not even floors.”
You can cry at home.
“But I can help you. There’s a ritual I can perform, and it will pinpoint what you’ve been through since birth until the present.”
OK, LET’S DO IT.
I don’t charge you for my services, it’s $95.00 for the two large candles. [Indicates a Roman pillar-sized candle] They act as guiding lights, to guide me through your spirit. You should let me perform this on you tonight, honey, because if you don’t mind me saying, you’re just going to keep trying to run away from your problems. But the problem is inside you. Think about it, I’m not going anywhere, I’m not losing anything, but you–you’re losing bigger and better things everyday.”
I was absolutely going to fork over $95.00, and would have, if my mind hadn’t suddenly screamed, “FACEPALM, IDIOT!” and snapped me out of the mysterious otherworld. I was fully aware that I was still going to cry the entire way home (it’s a 2-minute walk) and then some more in the privacy of between my couch cushions, but come on.
Why did I care, at all, about Spike’s opinion? He dated Drusilla for
hundreds of years, and Drusilla was a known lunatic who killed the adorable Kendra in Season 3! Spike spent most of his time either trying to kill Buffy, smoking, painting his fingernails, or peroxiding his hair. His opinion should have, at most, miffed me. It should not have driven me to consider spending $95.00 on supplies to build a new aqueduct.
Plus, he probably had a point (buried under the layers of patronization and newly tarred lungs). He was abrasive and unfeeling and rude with his criticism, but I should have taken his criticism more gracefully. I should have thanked him, or told him I was sensitive about my writing and we had better change the subject, or just accepted that he didn’t want to read my blog instead of forcing him to.
Or, I should have flipped the table over, given him the finger, and strutted out of the bar. But probably not, cause those tables were pretty solid.