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Steven Forbes 06-04-2014 12:34 AM

B&N Week 180: Are You A Misunderstood Creator?
It’s another Tuesday, another Bolts & Nuts, another question!

Are you a misunderstood creator?

There’s something to be said about people. Even when they’re obviously “bad,” very few people believe themselves to be villains. They’re always the hero in their own stories, doing what they need to do to survive. That’s how we see ourselves.

However, you have to ask if that’s how others see you.

Understand that most of the time, you’re not going to be interacting with people face to face. You’re going to be doing most of your interaction through some form of social media before you get that email asking if you’re available for work. You’re going to be watched first, to see if you’re appropriate for the job someone may have for you. You may be researched before you’re ever approached. If you’re ever approached.

Click here to read more.

Alyssa 06-04-2014 05:41 AM

The timing of this post is impeccable. A couple days ago I had a run-in with a bat-shit-crazy lady. But I'm sure she thought she was being perfectly reasonable.

I participate in a small community of authors. One new member, let's call her Jane, injected herself into a conversation. She participated in the conversation like everyone else, but she made a side comment that took everyone by surprise. Without going into details, she basically stated something that was the complete opposite to what everyone understood as true (industry related).

Understandably, a few of the other members kindly asked her to share more info. Where did she get that information from? Could she share some sources?
Jane absolutely lost her nut. She spat at the other members, saying that she wouldn't "waste her time" digging up her sources, and that everyone should just believe her. She wrote some 5 paragraphs explaining how she'd been a writer since the seventies, and that she was basically Better Than All Modern Writers. So no, people shouldn't be asking her to back up her statements, because she Doesn't Get Shit Like That Wrong. Good god, people. Don't you know WHO I AM?

Just a simple request for more information on the subject lead this woman to feel personally attacked, even though everyone knew diddly squat about her, and intended no ill will.

Everyone tried to explain themselves (very politely I might add), that they weren't attacking her. They simply wanted to read more information on the subject. After all, her statement didn't fit with everyone's experience. They wanted to learn more. Make peace, not war. Etc.

She flew back again, stating that she hadn't read anything the members had written in reply, but that she can't believe everyone is still attacking her. That all the members were a bunch of <insert various expletives>. She said its members like you that make online communities terrible places to be. She then deleted her account.

Given that this author used her real name (the name that is linked to enormous online presence), I don't believe she was simply trolling. But her reaction to a simple request was exceedingly far beyond what was necessary. She lost her cool over nothing, and now everyone who witnessed her meltdown is going to give her a wide berth.

But here's the thing, even if she was in the right, and everyone WAS attacking her, her response was unprofessional. It reflected poorly on her.

Who wants to work with or help someone who has an inflammatory personality? I know that I sure as heck won't be doing anything for her. I'll be recommending others steer clear, too. Apparently this isn't the first time she's done this. She's built a reputation of "dummy-spitter". How professional does THAT sound?

If you feel that people are treating you unfairly, giving you a hard time, or blatantly attacking you, the WORST thing you can do is feed that fire. Keep calm. Don't get aggressive, or even passive aggressive. If you need to correct a misunderstanding, do so calmly and with lots of smiley faces. :har::har::har: Flying off the handle at people, swearing at them, and trying to trump yourself up while tearing others down will only make you look petty and unprofessional. And that has some very real consequences.

One thing I've found (and I've been a fairly permanent fixture online since internet communities became a thing) is that if you always be polite, be the first one to bring the peace, then you'll go a long way. The internet becomes a world of opportunities, instead of a world of angst and drama. People will be willing to share their knowledge with you, help you with whatever you're working on, or otherwise just send good karma your way. You don't know who's watching. What goes around will come around, one way or another.

If, in your effort to be more socially acceptable online, you actually BECOME a better person, that's not such a bad thing either! :cool:

My 2 cents. :har: Thanks for the post!

Luke Noonan 06-04-2014 02:49 PM


It reflected poorly on her.
This is a very wild guess, but if she's whom I'm thinking of, she's had certain emotional issues over her work for decades, as her early work was grief therapy for bereavement. A shame, as I used to really like some of it.

scrappy 06-04-2014 07:57 PM

i was a little disappointed in this article. not that it was bad. i enjoyed it. but when i read the title i thought steven was going to touch upon the creative side of being misunderstood. for example, when people go through elaborate lengths to make symbolism in an absurd story and nobody "gets" it. that kind of misunderstood.

Steven Forbes 06-04-2014 08:08 PM

Good point.

I could have made mention of something like that, but it would have been extremely challenging to get an entire column out of that.

When writing something that nobody "gets", I always refer back to Grant Morrison's The Filth: I bought it, but I didn't get it. It felt like it was going somewhere, but the end made no real sense to me. It's either too smart for me, or its crap. It's been years, and I still haven't decided.

Not "getting it", to me, is subjective. I, for one, am not that smart. I also don't want to work extremely hard to understand what I'm reading. I enjoyed reading Lord of the Flies, but I didn't like trying to dig too deep into it after I read it. Why isn't Dune part of a mandatory curriculum?!

Alyssa 06-04-2014 08:19 PM


Originally Posted by venusianfurs (Post 1826729)
This is a very wild guess, but if she's whom I'm thinking of, she's had certain emotional issues over her work for decades, as her early work was grief therapy for bereavement. A shame, as I used to really like some of it.

No idea, I just sat back and watched the showdown as it unfolded. Her reactions did seem ironic, given that one of her books was about how to cope with negativity or some-such.

Charles 06-10-2014 01:23 PM

I read the B&N #180 article, and clicked on the example link that you included Steven, only to find myself in a thread that I had not intended to visit, again. ACK!!

The particular example, aside, that you selected to underscore the point that you sought to make, you are quite right about how one's use (or lack thereof) of spelling and punctuation, when communicating via online mediums, craft an impression.

My own first-hand experience over the years in posting online, stretching back to the days of computer bulletin board systems (BBS), is that even if you try to exercise care with spelling and punctuation, the online environment will often inflict its own share of spelling and punctuation errors. I'm not sure if it's due to particular software, or to lag, or to certain software being resource hogs, but at times, the software, itself, won't keep up with what individuals post, thereby resulting in spelling and punctuation errors on top of and in addition to whatever errors that individuals may otherwise make on their own.

With regard to criticism of art, not being an artist, it is out of necessity that I must resort to words, if I am to participate in any online discussions about art that a given artist posts.

If an artist posts their artwork online, then it becomes fair game for others to comment on, regardless of whether the artist likes what they have to say or not. Freedom of expression doesn't apply to art alone, but to the written word, as well.

Nothing, of course, actually compels an artist to respond to criticism about their artistic handiwork. If they do decide to respond, though, then not just their art is at issue, anymore. The downside comes when others begin to judge a given artist, not by their art, but by their antics.

Why artists feel more comfortable responding to criticism of their artwork with words, rather than with more art, is beyond me. But, if and when they take it upon themselves to enter the world of the written word, all of their artistic skill and talent and power won't save them, when they wield words ineptly, ineffectively, or in a manner that ends up proving to be counter-productive to their own best interests, as artists.

If they can't deal with simple criticism of their artwork that they have chosen to put on public display, then what makes them feel that they are necessarily well-suited to engaging their critics at length in open debate?

Speaking only for myself, I encounter many different artists and just as many pieces of art that catch my eye. Most of the artwork that I encounter, I don't bother to comment on, at all. Thus, there usually tends to be something about a given piece that interests me enough, for me to comment on, at all, be it criticism or praise that ensues in the aftermath of an artist getting my attention through the posting of their art. Even then, though, a lot of art that does catch my eye, I remain silent on.

When I praise artists, they never seem to have a problem with me using words to praise them. Rather, it tends to be when I focus criticism upon their artwork that a relative handful become unnecessarily defensive about it. Artists invest time and energy and effort into crafting their art. But, artists hold no monopoly upon their time and energy and effort having value. It takes time and energy and effort for people to craft their respective criticisms of respective art pieces, also.

I can't speak for others, of course, only for myself, but I pause long enough to articulate an opinion about art because I find viewing art to be an enjoyable past time. Because I have no artistic talent of my own, circumstances and fate conspire to ensure that, in order to view art, I am dependent upon the artists of this world sharing their artistic creations with others - of which I am but a single individual out of many in the same boat.

I don't view and comment on art, because I crave a debate on the subject. If artists can't handle and cope with mere criticism of their artwork, the question begs to be asked, then, whether they can cope with a debate on the very same artwork that has already come in for criticism?

Debate, while a useful tool in its own right, tends to be time-consuming, and it tends to subject a given piece of art to criticism that is in-depth and at length. The more time invested in any given debate, the less time that remains available for browsing other pieces of art.

Ultimately, just like any artist, I only have so much time in a day to devote to viewing art and engaging in discussions about art. I much prefer to spend that allotted amount of time viewing art, but on those occasions where I do submit some commentary on a given piece, I harbor no desire to waste my time trying to explain a given criticism to someone who demonstrates no real willingness to listen. At that point, a disconnect exists, and I prefer to just resume viewing the art of others. It just tends to be a wiser investment of the time that I have.

If an artist doesn't want the public at large to comment on their artwork, then they might want to consider refraining from posting it for all the world to see. Once posted, it becomes fair game, no matter how much or how little that they like the comments and criticisms that naturally ensue from opinionated individuals.

From my perspective, the God that imbues individuals with artistic gifts is the very same God that created human beings as opinionated creatures.

When artists take it upon themselves to engage in a contest of words, rather than a contest of art, they might want to consider whether they are at advantage or disadvantage in such instances.

Art takes many forms. It is not limited to just and only the realm of imagery crafted by those who deem themselves artists in a literal visual sense. Artists enjoy no immunity from criticism of the masses. They enjoy no such luxury. Their artwork will be compared to the artwork of others, and likewise, it will be subjected to the comments and the criticisms of a very diverse range of human beings. In posting their artwork, they subject it to the marketplace of ideas. We live in an oft-disputatious society. Accordingly, people do not always agree. It is freedom of expression, and not freedom from criticism, that is protected.

Artists already possess the means whereby to preclude others from criticizing their artwork. All that they have to do is to keep it secluded away from the eyes of others. When they choose to go out of their way and put it on public display, along with that decision comes the possibility and the prospect that the public will have something to say - and they may well not like what the public says about what it is that they have produced and shared.

There's a saying that you shouldn't bring a knife to a gunfight. The biggest gun that any artist has in a discussion about their art is their art, itself. Discarding it, in favor of a resort to words, may not always serve the artist well. In all likelihood, it will depend upon the individual artist and the individual circumstances in question.

If an artist - any artist - can't deal effectively with criticism of their artwork, then they have a long, hard slog ahead of them, no matter who they are.

If a given artist doesn't want me to comment on their artwork, then the easiest and swiftest way to accomplish such is by simply asking me to refrain from doing so. After all, there are countless other artists out there who are always on the prowl for input and feedback on what they are producing. It is a simple enough matter to invest my time and energy and effort, where providing commentary is concerned, in others.

Steven Forbes 06-10-2014 02:23 PM

Hey, Charles.

Yep, I know what you mean.

I don't visit that section very often, but since I moderate a few boards here, I was asked by a person on the boards to step in and do something about that debacle. I don't have any power in that section, but it illustrated my point about being misunderstood perfectly.

I could have pointed to another thread, but I try not to make too many columns about me, or have me tangentially involved. I mean, it's bad enough I'm writing the column. I try not to make it a commercial that's all about me while doing it, too. There's a column out there that does this, being all about the creator, and it often reads like a commercial. I don't read or follow it. I don't even know why that particular creator even has a column...

But I digress.

It is easy to be misunderstood when you're online. Words have no inflection or tone. It's all in the reader's head. Tone is implied via word usage and punctuation.

Here is something that I don't understand. If you've been educated, then, at the very least, you know how to read and write. That means you were taught spelling and punctuation, not to mention capitalization and grammar. Why people don't think this is important completely boggles my mind.

Online, words are your only tool. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. Words will make you or break you. Now, if you're communicating in a language that is not native to you, I believe that most people will take that into consideration. If you don't want to be misunderstood, the first part of that is knowing how to communicate effectively.

The second part, methinks, would be keeping your emotions under control. Too many people don't want to do the hard work. They want credit just for showing up. I earned the title Marine because I put in the work and made the sacrifices to earn it. I didn't balk when the going got tough. I didn't rant and rave when I wasn't appreciated or when things didn't go the way I wanted them to.

Creating art, be it drawing, words, music, cinema, what-have-you, means you have a voice. Most of those with a voice want it to be heard. But you are very right: as soon as you open it for public display, then you are opening yourself for criticism, whether you want it or not.

I don't believe there is a way to be perfectly understood all of the time, because people are people. However, there is definitely a way to mitigate being misunderstood, and that is to effectively communicate with your emotions in check. Doing that, I believe, will take most people a long way.

Charles 06-10-2014 05:08 PM


Originally Posted by Steven Forbes (Post 1827245)
Hey, Charles.
Here is something that I don't understand. If you've been educated, then, at the very least, you know how to read and write. That means you were taught spelling and punctuation, not to mention capitalization and grammar. Why people don't think this is important completely boggles my mind.

Hi Steven,

It's important to keep in mind that a large bulk of communication online is of the casual, informal variety. The Internet might imbue virtually any communication with a certain degree of permanence, but the fact that it does so does not talismanically transform informal communication into formal communication.

Take this forum, the Digital Webbing forum, for example. I enjoying hanging out here, just casually browsing the art posted in the forum threads here at my leisure, and as my spare time allows. When I encounter a piece of art that I want to comment on, I tend to write in an off-the-cuff manner. The same holds true for virtually everyone, I suspect, regardless of how well or how poorly that they articulate their opinion and view.

The Internet is very conducive to communication that is informal and casual in nature. People adapt to every medium of communication. People find shortcuts, to save time. Communication mediums have a way of taking on a life of their own. The Internet tends to be a force for decentralization. It requires less effort to post and discuss things in an informal nature than in a formal manner.

Furthermore, not everyone connects to a given communications hub on the Internet in the same way. For example, I use a desktop computer. Many utilize web capable cell phones. The desktop is more geared towards lengthy postings, whereas cell phones are geared more toward brevity. I notice it more on Facebook than anywhere else.

Tone and deflection, not to mention humor, wit, and things such as sarcasm, are more instantly identifiable in vocal communication, compared to the typed word - especially if someone utilizes subtlety as part of their normal method of communicating. Additionally, as with most things in life, time, use, and experience tend to act as mitigators of misunderstandings.

Teachers tend to be as bad as the average person, when utilizing online communication mediums, as far as deficiencies in spelling and punctuation are concerned. Again, it all goes back to the informal nature of such communication mediums. Informal communication facilitates communication, but it comes at a price. Often, the price paid comes in the form of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors. But, because it is informal communication, a sense of no harm, no foul tends to dominate the medium.

The bulk of human communication is informal communication. Human communication is, always has been, and always will be fraught with risks of every sort and size and shape. It is not a journey that any of us take, alone.

Plus, much like art, the best way to get better at communicating via the written word is by doing it. The more practice that one has at it, the more opportunity that they tend to enjoy to refine their use of any given mode of communication. With experience also tends to come patience and the ability to adapt. With billions of people sharing the same world, learning how to communicate effectively is a never-ending journey. Everyone tends to make progress at their own individual pace, as well.

Steven Forbes 06-10-2014 05:46 PM

Informality shouldn't matter. When we were taught to write, we were taught that capitals start a sentence, and that a period ends one.

Communication has just a few rules that aren't hard to follow.

It's much more challenging to write a novel, screenplay, or script if you're used to writing "informally." Have you seen the amount of crap I get in TPG?

Charles 06-10-2014 09:41 PM


Originally Posted by Steven Forbes (Post 1827277)
Informality shouldn't matter. When we were taught to write, we were taught that capitals start a sentence, and that a period ends one.

When I was taught to write, the Internet didn't exist. Historically and traditionally, casual and informal communication has always been treated differently from formal communication.

Communicating via texting with cell phones is geared toward brevity, not rules of grammar. The ability of the human mind to communicate is broad, not narrow. In a perfect world, we would all use perfect grammar. But, that's not the world that we live in.

The nature of the informal is a less rigid environment. The rules get bent and broken, and even treated with casual disregard. It's not as though people actually need punctuation and capitalization to communicate, even if they do facilitate communicating more effectively and reducing the chances of misunderstanding.


Originally Posted by Steven Forbes (Post 1827277)
Communication has just a few rules that aren't hard to follow.

But, people who possess choice can choose to not follow rules. There is no one way to communicate, and it is not unusual for people to drop formality and rigidity of rules, in order to just communicate with ease, such as suits them.


Originally Posted by Steven Forbes (Post 1827277)
It's much more challenging to write a novel, screenplay, or script if you're used to writing "informally." Have you seen the amount of crap I get in TPG?

Well, no, I haven't seen the amount of crap that you get in. Nor should I, since I am not you. We each have our own cross to bear, you know.

That aside, I don't disagree that it is more challenging to write a novel, screenplay, or script, if you skip adherence to rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Nonetheless, human beings tend to be very social creatures, and they find ways to communicate that suit them, the whole world be damned.

That's not to say that there are never consequences that emanate from treating spelling and punctuation with reckless abandon, when communicating via the written word. But, if all that they are trying to do is to have a conversation, then they may simply decide to communicate as they want to, not how someone else advises them to.

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