Lately, there seems to be a lot of fussing about how some entertainer/artist/creative person didn’t give everybody exactly what they wanted 100% of the time.
There’s a thing where people seem to think, well, if you put yourself (or your work) in the public eye, you should be prepared never to make a mistake or do anything that’s less than pure genius ever again. And that’s a bit much. It’s not really fair, you know?
I’m not saying we don’t all have a right to discuss people’s missteps and examine what we could all learn from them, or that we shouldn’t criticize stuff we don’t like. We do, and we should, and I will — OH YES, MATT DAMON’S PONYTAIL, I WILL — but it sure would be nice if we could also remember that all these things we pick apart are made by real people. It peeves me when I see posts that start, “he should have…” or “why doesn’t she…?” from people with opinions about stuff they’ve NEVER EVEN TRIED TO DO THEMSELVES.
So, in that spirit, I present a few postcards that might be used in situations in which someone doesn’t deliver the [album / book / meal / comedy routine / etc.] of our dreams, but in which we can still be human beings about it.
Also, this seems like a good time to remind ourselves: If we don’t end up liking Go Set a Watchman, it’s OK. But it seems like there are a lot of posts popping up saying that Harper Lee has “killed To Kill a Mockingbird” by publishing a book in which some of the characters we were used to are different/worse. (And yeah, the details are kind of fuzzy about how all that happened, aren’t they? But there it is.) Maybe let’s remember that (a) Atticus Finch is not a real person, he’s a made-up character — a character who got written one way and then another — and (b) this “book” we’re holding was a draft. A draft that was initially set aside in favor of a different draft. As the great Anne Lamott told us way back when, drafts are important. Drafts are how we get where we’re going. Ain’t nobody gonna produce perfect drafts every time.
And really, to have access to multiple drafts or versions of someone’s work is a gift for those of us who enjoy studying the creative process. To be able to compare the iterations of a book (or a stand-up act or a painting or a song) is to learn something about how stuff gets made. Maybe we’ll look at it and understand why Lee’s editor told her to put it in a drawer and start over. Or maybe we’ll get to see how Lee stumbled her her way toward the true voices of her characters. Maybe we’ll love it. Maybe not. But hey, she’s written at least one fabulous novel and one maybe-or-maybe-not fabulous one, and in my life I will write a total of zero novels. So: