I think I tweeted and posted about it on Patreon and forgot to put anything up here; I’m so sorry about that, peeps. For those of you who don’t follow me anywhere else: I’ve had a fracture on my middle finger. It took me a long time to feel comfortable typing again, and when I did, I had to give Shadows Rise priority (by the way, new chapter’s out now so go have a look!).
I have reviews pending that I will have to get through soon. Starting with a book review and then two Patreon polls I didn’t fulfill (sorry for that, guys!), but consider this my hesitant first step towards putting out content again.
You’ve read the title, you must be wondering why I decided to make this post. Short answer: I think it’s a fair question to ask myself. If you haven’t been around that long, back when I started this blog I stated multiple times I wasn’t a reviewer and this would not be a review blog. Clearly my perspective changed. The Nest is no longer the personal writing blog I initially intended and I’m happier with this outcome. Longer answer: I think explaining why and how this change came about might add to a larger discussion. Because I see a lot of debate about who reviews are for and who’s allowed to call themselves a reviewer. What ‘credentials’ reviewers should have, etc. And as someone who, uhm, doesn’t always write the most objective or tactful reviews, and also as a writer who is open to receiving the same sort of criticism, I feel like I actually have something to contribute to that discussion. It’s just my personal perspective; the reasons I do the things I do, who my reviews are for—Spoiler alert: not for the author, and we’ll get to that point of discussion later, don’t worry.
Not a Professional Critic
When I was a kid, I’d always say I didn’t want to be a writer. I didn’t want to be called a writer. I was never going to be a writer.
Yeah, I know. lol
The main reason was that most writers I knew at that point in my life were pretentious jerks and I didn’t want to include myself in that group. I didn’t realize that simply by doing what I was doing in my own spare time, I was already a writer at that point, and it had literally no effect on me as a person. I’m not a pretentious asshole who’s going to look down on someone for how they choose to approach writing or simply for writing something that isn’t my preference. I’m not implying all other writers are like this, just the ones I’d had a personal experience with at that time, by the way. I’ve met plenty of writers since and most of them are lovely people. Some of them are great friends, even. The reason I bring this up is that my experience with reviewing has been fairly similar. I didn’t want to call myself a reviewer because I didn’t feel I had the necessary credentials to do so. I’m not a ‘professional critic’ after all. And for the record: I’m never going to be. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take any of my reviews seriously, or base their own judgment on them. I do reviews for two reasons:
Mine and yours. I enjoy picking things apart. I enjoy riffing on objectively horrible things and turning what could be a harrowing reading/watching experience into something more enjoyable. I’ve had people tell me my commentary series was the only way they were able to get through My Immortal. And shitposting as that entire series was, I take pride in that. I sincerely do. Moreover, writing those posts was also the only way I was able to get through My Immortal with some semblance of sanity left. Not a lot, but some anyway.
The biggest reason why I write reviews is to force myself to think more critically. Not just about the things other people create but about the things I like and dislike. What I’m most drawn to in media in general and how that reflects on the things I create.
Thinking back to a conversation about sitcoms I had with friends a while back, I watched The Big Bang Theory for a lot longer than I probably wanted to, exclusively for Sheldon and Amy. Because no matter how much bad there was in that show; and there was a lot of it, something about how those two navigated physical intimacy spoke to me personally.
Boundaries may or not be clear lines for some people and it was genuinely the first time I saw a couple on television trying to navigate experiencing different levels of attraction and dealing with that discomfort. With the pressure of knowing you’re with someone who wants things you may not be able to provide for them. With the ways other people see you and your relationship because of that. And trying to work through those things, finding a middle ground.
The DnD episode and the Prom episode were particularly striking for me in that regard. Where in the first Sheldon uses DnD as a way to give Amy a little more intimacy in a way he’s able to process which, while something I haven’t done myself, I can actually understand pretty well. And the latter where the gang decides to have a prom for themselves and Sheldon is scared of the societal pressures involved with after-prom-sex. Which, proms aren’t really a thing in Brazil the way they are in America (or American movies anyway), but I can understand the whole ‘sex as a milestone’ pressure. The feeling of not being considered an adult, or feeling valid in a relationship, if you’re not doing certain things. And these being pressures inflicted by friends, family, or just society in general; not necessarily the person you’re with.
These moments in this crappy ass show were pivotal to my own issues and me trying to figure myself out. And the point I’m trying to make is that I’m very critical of things like pandering sometimes because I wish I’d seen myself in something where I didn’t have to tune out those characters being terrible 90% of the time just to feel that connection. To the point where I don’t want to demand representation, I just want to demand things to be better.
Now I’ve said in the past that I don’t like having labels demanded of me to justify writing the things I write. I don’t write about relationships, so maybe I won’t get to write the demisexual love story I feel the world deserves (I’m sure someone will or has; recommendations welcome!), and I may not insert myself into my stories but I do insert aspects of myself into my characters. Not on purpose, but nonetheless they’re there. My trust issues, my difficulties communicating, the odd and often easy to misinterpret ways of showing affection, the warped sense of self-worth, the god-awful stupid humor I supposedly got from my dad. Not remembering my dad all too well and having take people’s word on that (pats Dani >.>)… These are all things I didn’t always know about myself. Or wasn’t willing to recognize about myself at least. But I’m able to recognize them in my characters. And I’m able to recognize them in things that I enjoy, and characters I’m drawn to, not because they’re like me specifically, but because they’re like me in a small particular ways. Looking outwards can be extremely useful in allowing yourself to look inwards. So, yeah, I write reviews for me. And maybe someone else sees a little of themselves in the observations I make as well.
Criticism isn’t always about placing yourself above something and casting judgment. For me it’s always been “where do I see value in this?”, “why do I see value in this?”, and “in what ways do I wish it could be better?”. And asking these questions about cartoons and fan fiction facilitates asking these questions about myself, my work. Where do I see value in the things I create? Why? Where and how do I wish I’d done it better?
As an Author
I understand how criticism can hurt. And I’m not going to pretend it’s never happened to me. It has. To the point where I was almost discouraged from writing altogether. People’s opinions can be misguided and cruel and reflect on you in ways you didn’t expect or didn’t want. I get the urge to push back against reviews for that reason. But reviews aren’t feedback for you. They’re not meant to be constructive for the author. They’re meant to be by readers for readers. Is the system bullshit? Yeah. Even in Royal Road where we post Shadows Rise I’ve heard authors say that a 4 star review can lower a fiction’s ratings to the point of being harmful, but… Those things should not be on readers. Readers shouldn’t be admonished for a) not knowing how the system works from your side of things and b) not playing along with it for your benefit. If they think your work is a 4-star read, that’s still pretty damn positive, it’s still a huge fucking compliment. And the correct response is “thank you”. If the way Royal Road or Amazon, or Goodreads ratings affect your work is so messed up that it counts as a negative to them, admonishing readers for it isn’t doing jack shit to make that any different. As a writer, those are my feelings. Snapping at the people who are consuming your work and trying to support you ain’t it. And it’s never gonna be it. If you think it is, then well, fuck you.
So that’s gonna be it for now. I got a chapter to finish and then hopefully I can get into a reviewing rhythm again come next month. Hopefully. I miss having activity in here!