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I hate your work.

from iCarly--my son's favorite show

The famous sculptor says to the aspiring sculptor his work “is amateurish at best. …They’re not good.”

The aspiring sculptor falls into despair. Gives up his art. Gets a regular job. Of course, by the end of the sitcom, the worshipped sculptor comes back to admit he was just jealous. The younger man’s art is brilliant. Maybe they could work on a piece together. Smiles all around.

This is an episode of iCarly. Spencer (pictured over there in his sculpture of a giant coffee) is Carly’s older brother and guardian. She had asked the sculptor to come see her brother’s art. She thought hearing compliments from his idol would be a great gift. But after the idol says terrible things, Spencer explains that he can’t pour his heart into something he can’t do well.

Every time that episode comes on, I wonder how I’d react if a writer I loved panned my work. What if Margaret Atwood said I had no talent or if she read my work and shrugged? If some unknown person insulted your work or if a friend didn’t like it, is that easier to dismiss? Could you find it in yourself to keep writing or would you put all the stories away?

Spencer is an aspiring sculptor. His sister, Carly, gets a famous sculptor to come see her brothers work.

14 thoughts on “I hate your work.

    • I know it is the risk every artist takes, but perhaps it helps to think about what you will do when that criticism comes. Does the source matter and how much? What will you do?

      But yes, insults are never okay.

  1. My kids love that show, too, and I’ll admit I chuckle when I watch it. I don’t remember that one, though. Something tells me, if that sculptor had never come back, Spencer would drift back into sculpting. He’d start to think maybe that guy just didn’t get him. He’d start to wonder why he was letting a single guy decide whether or not he had talent. And then he might decide it doesn’t matter if he has talent or not, he’s going to do it anyway. You can’t fit that journey in 30 minutes, though.

    • The show has grown on me. The other night–when I wrote this post–I kept watching even after my kiddo fell asleep. Ah the 30-minute format. Just think if Spencer had a novel.

  2. I’d be upset, but then I’d move on. I’ve had enough rejection, both professional and personal, to realize that you just have to move on. Even if it’s the one you love, or the one you most admire, doing the rejecting.

  3. If a writer I loved and admired told me I stunk, it’d be hard to get over. I’d probably get a regular job (ha!) and go back to forgetting how to dream anymore. At least, for a while I would. Whether I ever returned to the thing I love would remain to be seen.

    I took a harsh crit on a submission of art once. It took me about six months to get over it. When I did, I took the critique and applied as much as I could and I got better. MUCH better.

    I tailspin. I crash and burn. I eventually get up and get over it. No, insults from friends aren’t easier to dismiss, for me, because they’re friends. I trust their opinions. Strangers? My attitude: Pff. Yeah, whatever, dude; everyone’s got an opinion, and as soon as I care what yours is, I’ll let the media know, okay?

    Still, taking insults can get hurtful. I took on on my fiction blog just this weekend. While I was sort of stunned someone would be that rude, I very quickly remembered this is the Internet and there is no limit to the number of jerks in the world. *Shrug*

    But the idea of someone I admire taking my work down hard? Hm. Interesting.

    • It is so different depending on your emotional attachment to the critic. A stranger can be a jerk, but someone you love or admire? Tricky. But I still believe you have to ignore it. Sure, if they have helpful criticism, listen, but then keep creating.

  4. When I was first doing tech books on a particular topic, I found out that tech books don’t go through just the copy-editing phase; they go through a technical-review phase, too. (Which stands to reason, right?) The technical reviewer is selected by the publisher, with or without input from the author. For my first such book, they chose as tech reviewer another author in their stable of books on the same subject, and I was thrilled. He was, and is (I guess), very active, very well respected, etc., and although I’d never had any personal contact with him I’d admired him from a distance.

    That tech review? One of the worst experiences of my writing life. I lost no respect for him, indeed, if anything I lost respect for myself. But he was harsh, outright scornful at some points — my book (an intro to the subject) wouldn’t be aiming at any of his own audience, so it wasn’t like he viewed me as a potential competitor or anything. No, he just hated my book, hated my attitude about the subject, and so on. (Got that? “Just” hated that stuff.) If the book hadn’t already been so far along in the process I would have bailed right then and there.

    In the event, I did that book, and a 2nd edition, and a couple more books on other but related topics. So it didn’t destroy me or anything. But you better believe that on subsequent tech reviews, I explicitly requested: “Anyone but X.” You’ve gotta prepare to be disagreed with, even corrected, but there’s nothing which says you have to live with insults.

    Fiction, oboy. Now THAT would be hard to get past. I think I’d be so nervous that one of my gods would hate it, that — even though a GOOD blurb from one would be invaluable — I wouldn’t want to pass it along to any of them, for fear of a BAD one.

    (Otoh, I believe most professionals tend to treat up-and-comers very kindly. They pretty much all got the bad stuff in the beginning, too, and remember the pain.)

    • Hate is a harsh word! That is terrible. I had a professor tell me my paper sucked. It was painful to be in the same room with him after that! People do remember insults much better than compliments. They trust insults more for some crazy reason. I know I do…

  5. Part of me is afraid I’d take my toys and go home, if someone who’s work I admired told me mine sucked. There’s that other part of me that likes to believe I’d tell them to STFU and get a real life, around real people. In reality, I’d probably fall somewhere in the middle. 😉

  6. I had my college senior project poetry advisor tell me he didn’t think I could do my senior project, that my poetry wasn’t good enough. I had planned to write a book of poetry, go to grad school for poetry.

    He dumped me too late to get another advisor. I said to myself, “oh I’ll show him” and continued to write poetry, but never applied for that mfa in poetry, and only sporadically submitted poetry for publication, giving up after the first rejection.

    I never really stopped writing poetry. I taught poetry, and poetry goes into my prose, but my goals of being a poet definitely faded. If not for his rejection, who knows?

    • That is sad. No one person should have so much power. I decided not to be an art major when my high school art portfolio got a 2 out 5 points from some Princeton review. Clearly I was no artist.

      Well, who knows. But you’re in a good place now with art and fiction. Poetry’s loss may be fiction’s gain.

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