Welcome back readers! It’s another Monday, and that means as always another Being a Better Writer post for you to dig into!
Me? I’m currently out of the office, up in Alaska if all went according to plan. Completely off-grid most of the time and hopefully not soaking wet just as often (fingers crossed, but it’s Southeast Alaska, so I’m not holding my breath, save to come up for air when the rain gets really bad).
Today’s post is a one that’s been on my mind for some time now, owing to a wind band of articles, comments, and general sentiment I’ve run into around the internet over the last few years that has, in recent times, only increased in frequency. Unfortunately, I think this increase is to the detriment of writing everywhere, as the increase means this phenomenon is only becoming more accepted over time.
Why? Well … let’s take a quick look at what this phenomenon is. The first time I truly realized how widespread it had become was when I encountered a whole article dedicated to the practice on a book site. And I don’t mean in “raise the flag of warning” kind of way. This post was the problem.
What was it? An editorial piece from one of the site’s members about how much they “loved” The Lord of the Rings … save for one “tiny” problem. I won’t go into detail on what the “problem” was, because it ultimately doesn’t matter. It was all in their head. The real problem was that their post straight out demanded that the Tolkien Estate rewrite and “update” the books to bring them in line with what this reader demanded. To “fix” them, as this reader explained it, so that it would fill their content desires better.
Again, I’m not going to specify what the demanded change was. You can make your own guesses, but I found the entire thing ridiculous. This article demanded that those in charge of The Lord of the Rings change and rewrite the classic to suit their demands, as they were a ‘paying customer’ and therefore was, it would see, ‘owed’ the product they demanded.
Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, I’ve seen this attitude appearing more and more across the web, from posts to reviews to even comments on forums and places like Discord. More and more often I see people posting comments like “Well, I want to read this story about this so this creator needs to stop creating what they like and create what I like. Art is for the public, and I’m the public!”
Some go further. The OP-ED I had recently about “banning things just because you don’t like them?” That sort of “let’s force censorship on anything we don’t like” mentality often overlaps with this sense of entitled demand that a creator owes these individuals what they want simply by existing, and if they don’t deliver it? Well … then they need to be punished. Whether that’s attacking them with a twitter mob, smearing their work with negative reviews or ratings, or some other form of attack.
And this kind of behavior is wrong. Full stop.
Which brings us to today’s Being a Better Writer post, which is in a way a rebuttal to all these very self-aggrandizing, entitled folks. Which starts, and basically ends, with this:
You want content? You write it.
Or create it, as the case may be. I’m not limiting this to writing, though I am naturally going to be focusing on that aspect of things. But that’s all there really is to it: A consumer has two paths to the control of content they are consuming: Consume … or don’t.
That’s it. Everything else is an extension of those two. Reviews? Ratings? They’re part of “I purchased this product” (assuming the reviewer is honest). You either purchased a product and enjoyed it, or you didn’t. Regardless you as an individual have no claim over the creator to demand that they produce something else. They are the creator, not you. They can create what they want, and it’ll either sell, or it won’t. Either way, you don’t have any control over them. They owe you nothing past the exchange of “here is a product, purchase it or don’t.”
And that seems to be where the disconnect is. A lot of people seem to have self-internalized the oft-misquoted “The Customer is Always Right” to the point that they’re living in a realm of “The customer must be provided what the customer demands, and I’m the customer with the demand, therefore the supplier must do what I say.”
Yeah, those of you rolling your eyes at this have the right idea, but unfortunately we’re seeing more and more demands from people who actually think this, that the world of entertainment should be rebuilt with their wants in mind … even if the creator isn’t interested in exploring those at all.
Then boom, trouble starts. Even if there are other content creators creating that thing, the demanding customer insists that the artist in their crosshairs owes them the content that they want, no matter what. After all, they’re the “customer,” and they’re “always right.”
However … none of that is true. They’re wrong, and they’re not even a customer. What they are is a bully, a detractor at best, too lazy to create their own content and thus demanding that someone else give them what they want.
And no one should be giving them the time of day, much less listening to them or worse, giving them a platform. If they want content so badly … then they can learn to make it.
Because ultimately, that’s how content gets made. There was no story about a dragon opening her own bank and the struggles of getting people to accept it before I wrote Axtara – Banking and Finance. So I, having the idea and loving it, wrote it. I didn’t write a hit piece about how one of my favorite authors was a horrible human being because they hadn’t written the story I wanted to read instead of writing what they wanted to write. I sat down and added that story to my list, then wrote it.
Same goes for any other form of creative expression. If I want art of a particular scene or character, I either pay someone an agreed upon amount to create that art, or I pick up a pencil and learn to draw it myself. I am not “owed” art by others with the creative talents to produce it.
That last bit? I’ve actually been told that as part of the “logic” of why these entitled folks feel they’re allowed to make these demands. These creators, I’ve been told, didn’t learn these skills for themselves. They’re “owed” to the “public good” (I’m really not joking, I’ve been told this more than once). Therefore, any creator is required by the rules of “society” to fulfill the demands of those who “aren’t talented.”
What a load.
Artists and creators owe nothing to society. They paid the price in practice, often years of it, sacrificing so that they could create the thing they want to create. They can choose to sell something to someone that they like … but they can also choose to sell to someone else. To craft or create for another audience. Or no audience. They built the skills. They can do with them what they please.
They owe to no one. Well, maybe student loan debt if they went to college to acquire some of their skills. But they certainly don’t owe anything to a random person or ground on the internet that demands that they produce something else (often with an “or else” attached).
Okay, at this point you’re either nodding in acceptance or plotting my murder for daring to disagree with the idea that creators “owe” everyone else their efforts. At which point it’s time to switch gears. Maybe one of you readers is in the crowd of “I demand” and just now realizing what a colossal skag that behavior makes you. Or maybe again, you’re plotting my death.
Anyway, there is a takeaway to this. Many times when I’ve interacted with these demanding folks, one thing that they like to fall back on is the cry of “But this content needs to be made!” Usually for one justification or another. But they act as though it’s vitally important that it exists.
Well … if so … then they can make it.
That’s really what this post comes down to. If someone is of the belief that it is vitally important for “society” (or at least their own needs) that a thing exists, then they can either pay someone to make it … or they can make it themselves!
If you want content … Create it! If you want a story about two young lovers setting out on an adventure across a sea of vegetation, no one owes you that story. But you certainly can write it. The Tolkien Estate owes no one a rewritten version of The Lord of the Rings to suit one internet poster’s demands. But that poster? Nothing is stopping them from writing their own Lord of the Rings-style adventure (or even fanfic) that ticks all their boxes.
You know, except them. They may say that they don’t have time to learn how to write, or draw, or whatever. But hey, that’s their choice. Those who have those skills built them over thousands of hours of practice, and they had to start somewhere.
If you want content, don’t badger others to make it for you (unless you’re willing to pay a pretty penny). Just write it. Draw it. Whatever. Create it.
This shouldn’t be looked down on. This is an opportunity! To create something that is exactly what you want. To exercise your own skills.
Maybe after some time has been spent on it, the realization of the difficulty might sink in. Of what a mountain creating something even as straightforward as a short story or a piece of art can be.
But if someone really wants that material, truly believes that it is worth creating … then they will. They won’t back off and decide to stop unless they decide that it wasn’t really worth it, and that the world didn’t really need it.
If they truly want it, then they’ll work to create it.
There’s one last thing I want to touch on before I close this—admittedly simple and straightforward—topic: This idea of creating what you want? It extends to all reaches and definitely ties back to “banning what you don’t like.”
Look, if someone out there is creating stuff that someone else doesn’t like, the solution isn’t to shame them and force censorship upon them (obviously excepting a few specific rules that all parties have to play by under law).
The solution is to compete, not censor. Don’t argue for a record, a movie, or a book to be banned. Make your own and compete. Let people choose which one they want to support. The solution to “people say Bob’s Christmas lights are better than mine” isn’t to burn down Bob’s house … it’s to up your Christmas light game.
Make your own. Create your own. Build your own. If you want something, get out there and create it. Prove you value it. Don’t demand that others create something of value for you (at least not without paying them a lot of agreed-upon money).
Do it yourself.
Good luck. Now get
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