written December 3, 2000
Recently, on a mailing list devoted to the open and free discussion of fanfic, I saw a post that basically said, "I don't like this story, and find the author's writing ability to be less than stellar". The author in question responded by saying, repeatedly, that the poster hated her, and was angry at her, and was bitter toward her.
I've seen this attitude before. It makes no sense.
Since when does "I don't like your story" mean "I don't like you", or, even more extreme, "I hate you"?
Since when does "I don't think this author is a good writer" mean "I don't think this author is a good person"?
How does anyone connect those things like that?
I mean, do people think that "I don't like your cooking" really means "I hate you"?
Writing ability does not equal personality, or character. Any more than cooking ability, or painting ability, or musical ability, or the ability to ride a bike or skate or play basketball or any other damn thing in the world. What you can do is not who you are -- and people's opinions about what you can do is not the same thing as their opinions of you as a person.
There are people who have a gift for the English language that blows me away, whose ideas are scintillating and mind-opening, whose work I treasure and save for those days when I'm convinced the world has forgotten how to speak, much less write. I also happen to think that some of these authors are fairly despicable people, and I wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with them.
There are people whose writing, in my opinion, bluntly sucks rocks, who are smart, witty, wonderful people who brighten the lives of everyone who knows them.
Kinda negates the whole "I think you're a great writer and therefore I think you're a great person and I like you a lot" and "I think you're a terrible writer and therefore I think you're a terrible person and I hate you" idea, doesn't it?
And it seems so obvious to me.
Doesn't everyone know someone who's truly gifted at something, who is nevertheless not a very nice person?
Doesn't everyone know someone who's truly ungifted at something, who is nevertheless a really nice person?
Hell, doesn't everyone know someone who is both gifted and ungifted at various things? (How on earth do you decide whether to like or to dislike a person whom you find both gifted and ungifted, if you base your likes and dislikes on talent?)
If someone watched me on a skating rink and told me "Gee, you really suck at that" I'd pretty much be forced to agree, and who knows, maybe the two of us would go get cocoa and strike up a lifelong friendship. Even though that person thinks I suck at doing something.
If someone pointed out that I can't draw -- that my attempts to express my ideas through this particular artistic endeavor were discordant and clumsy, and failed to communicate effectively -- why, then I'd have to think they thought I couldn't draw. I can't even imagine assuming that they hated me as a person just because of that!
If someone heard me flubbing guitar chords and told me I couldn't play -- that the music that sounds so clear in my head was a tuneless noise in their ears -- I'd assume that I was doing a lousy job of recreating those beautiful sounds only I could hear. But to think that they hate me, because they can't read my mind and hear past my clumsy attempts to produce music??? Even if they told me that every hour on the hour for three weeks straight, I wouldn't think they hated me, for heaven's sake. I'd think they were getting a headache, maybe, but hating me?
I have to believe that most people would agree that it would be ridiculous to think someone hated you because they thought you sucked at skating, or couldn't draw in perspective, or flubbed guitar chords.
So where does this idea that "I don't like your writing" means "I hate you bunches" come from?
If our worth as people in the eyes of others really does depend on nothing more than our ability to do things, we are all horrible people in each other's eyes -- because NONE of us can do everything. Even the things we can do, we don't always do well. Hell, we usually don't do stuff well, or at least I don't; I'm good at a few things, and mediocre at a larger number of things, and pretty damn sucky at lots and lots and lots of things.
And yet, oddly, I don't assume that people hate me because of it. Even when they tell me I'm sucky at something.