Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 06: Keeping Up With the Critics (David Brothers Guest Post)

We both have a lot of friends who write about comics, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone talk about the subtle peer pressure that comes along with that. Do you ever feel like there are books that you should like, and that liking them somehow makes you feel more informed to be a critic?

I feel like that a lot. It's dumb, and I recognize that, but there's a certain level of wanting to keep up that I just can't shake. It's not quite competitiveness -- I don't care about whether or not I can go toe-to-toe with someone over Los Bros deep cuts -- but it's like... I learn by seeing and doing, right? I see that other people can do something, so I try it myself. So when I see people writing about something I'm not particularly into, be it highbrow comics or minicomics, my first thought is either "Why don't I do that?" or "Why can't I do that?"

This is an almost entirely internal struggle, one that I could solve as easily as just deciding not to care any more, but that's hard to do. When you see critics, and especially friends, championing a book, you want to not just check that book out for yourself, but to like it, yeah? You have good taste, so you have good taste in friends, and it therefore follows that your friends should have good taste. But sometimes your friends are really into it and you check it out and whoof... nothing doing. Which makes me wonder if I don't get it, instead of just accepting that different people have different tastes.

I don't know about you, but this definitely has an effect on what I write and how. I go harder and write more when I'm feeling bad about my tastes, almost as an attempt to justify the trash I like in the face of the stuff my friends like. It's not a conscious decision. It's only something I can see when I look back and try to figure out why I spent a week writing about the secret genius behind fart jokes or something.

But at the same time, while the whole insecurity that comes from this is dumb, it does make me a better writer, I think. If I was inclined to be charitable to myself, I would say that being driven to do that work, to dig deeper to cover up what I view as failings, makes me a better writer. I want to do more to keep up, so I figure out how to do just that, without reading a bunch of stinky classics or whatever.

Do you struggle with this at all? It's not a huge burden, and I can obviously recognize it for what it is, but it's a hard habit or insecurity to shake, even with that knowledge. We want to fit in, and I think more than that, we want to be considered good or informed or however you measure criticism.

Where do you stand on this? What's your relationship with the work of other critics like?

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]