A compendium of grumbles

Disclaimer: most of the following material does not apply to my circle of acquaintance. I have some great supporters. If you recognize yourself in any of the following paragraphs, however, if you feel a wee twinge of guilt…well, then. Good. Begin Rant:

 Does your heart sink when a buddy mentions that he spent his weekend glued to a word processor instead of bellied up to a bar or attached to a game console? Do you quiver in fear of being asked to read someone’s fan fiction or offer an opinion on a drawing? Are there awkward silences when a fictional character is mentioned in conversation? Do you wish that the amateur or semi-pro creators(s) in your life would just shut up already?

Tough shit. Put on your grown-up hat, pull up your panties, and stuff your hypocrisy in a nice tight hole somewhere. You aren’t a sparkling font of excitement 24/7/365 either. You, too,  have at least one cherished activity that your friends tolerantly support. You show off baby pictures and recent purchases, vent about work horrors,  talk about sports, or relate celebrity gossip with the full and reasonable expectation that your friends will enthuse along with you, at least vicariously.

That’s what friends and family do, right? They encourage each other in their passions. Right. Unless there’s an artist in the room. Then people make with the mumbles and the squirms, and the “oh, gawd, please change the subject” sweats. This is the death of a thousand cuts, for a creator.

You’ve probably ego-slashed someone in your life more times than you know. You may even inflict  bloody havoc on their self-confidence with the  best of intentions. Painful injuries don’t care about intentions. Scars are scars. Let’s analyze a couple of classic damaging admissions and look at some field-tested alternatives.

1. “I say I like the art because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but she sucks.”
Oh, please. Do you think you’re fooling anyone? A generic “That’s great!” followed by a hurried change in subject is like a needle to the heart. The technical term is “damning with faint praise.”
Support score: D- You suck like a vacuum.

Try this instead: “Not my style, but it looks like you worked hard. How long did it take?” 
2. “It sucks/I’m too busy/I don’t read/ I don’t like that kind of story/art/craft.”
Aw, poor baby. If your friend ever listens to you bitch about anything, ever, (and you know he does) if you’ve ever asked for help moving, or needed help choosing an outfit while shopping (and you know you have) then you can suck it up and spend a little time with his avocation.  Unless you’re a jerk.
Support score: D- You’re a jerk.
Try any one of these instead:
Pre-emptive strike: “Gee, if I read dinosaur porn, I would read yours first…but I don’t. Who’s the market for that, anyway?”
Wellness check: Encourage the creator to tell you all about the work. And by encourage, I mean, “bring it up in conversation independently, and ask follow-up questions.” Repeat regularly. Creative types tend to introversion, and if they’re over age 12, they already carry the scars of damaging lukewarm interest. They’ll either gush or be clams who need tickling open. Respond as needed. 
Warm Fuzzies: Become superficially knowledgeable and discuss the work. This takes real effort (see clams vs geysers.) Not for the weak of heart, but criticism isn’t rocket science. If someone made cookies that tasted like crap, would you lie and say they were tasty? You’d get stuck with those cookies every Christmas for decades. Be direct but gentle. Worst case/best case, you’ll never have to critique again.
The point in common with these alternatives is the gift of your time. Your interest. Your affectionate indulgence, even. Think about whose passion you’re slicing to ribbons with the edge of your silence. You might be squirming. Someone else is bleeding.
3. “I bought his work didn’t I? I support my friends/family with their artistic endeavors. I just don’t want to talk about it.” (see #1 and 2 above for the usual reasons)
Newsflash: a purchase without a personal commitment is not support, not when you know the artist. It’s the consumer equivalent of a pity-fuck. One participant walks away feeling smug and self-righteous, but the other one got screwed out of any genuine connection. You may think you’re saying, “Look, I spent money on you. Isn’t that nice?” The real message is: “I’m sure your work will never sell to anyone who doesn’t know you, but I’ll give you a few dollars so that we need never speak of this again.”
Support score: F- Everyone loses. You’re out cash for art you don’t want, the artist is stripped of all dignity and left dangling in the wind.
Try this instead: If you don’t like an artist’s work, don’t buy it. Do tell others about it. Even if you think it sucks. Different strokes for different folks. Brag, big-time, at every opportunity,, about your cousin the potter or your bestie the purveyer of dinosaur porn. Whatever. Spread the word. Silence kills art. Word of mouth is the breath of life.

If you do buy someone’s work, read it or display it, and offer your freaking opinion to the creator at the first opportunity. Don’t make people beg for feedback, for frick’s sake. And speaking of feedback…

Do you lose that feeling of freshness when you think about writing a few words of praise about the creators in your life? Tough titty-cakes. Get your ass up to DeviantART, Wattpad, Smashwords or Amazon, wherever their work is posted, log in and start typing and sharing.  If you have trouble with the technical side, enlist a bright nephew or a neighbor child–or better yet, invite your starving artists to lunch and ask for help. If they’re online, they know the ropes. Bonus point: the flattery and attention will make them squirm. Fair retaliation for your past discomforts, and productive, too!

Stop being an ego- slasher. Start being a true supporter. That’s all I’m saying. Here endeth the Rant.

Now, in gratitude for your reading, here’s an anarchist punk penguin from a talented artist on Pixabay: