Hi Tom. How do you deal with that one guy who hates your work? How do you get a thicker skin as a creative person? How do you stop yourself going down a spiral of self-loathing when someone talks shit about something you worked very hard on?
I think everybody handles it differently. I think step one would be to surround yourself with like-minded creative people whose opinions you really value. Being able to commiserate with someone over that hateful review or comment or tweet or private message or whatever takes a whole lot of the weight off of your shoulders. For example, a hundred years ago I wanted to be a musician. So, I played open mics all over my hometown, just going in cold and not knowing anyone. But I would sit around and talk to all the other people who had signed up, so when each of us got up to play, it wouldn’t matter how terrible we were, because we could look across the bar or coffee shop or whatever at the others and just kind of smile and shrug it off. That story seemed a lot more relevant and poignant in my head, but I guess what I’m trying to say is you need to start off doing two things: one, you need to be creative for yourself, and not for anyone else. You write or paint or sing that thing until it is everything you wanted it to be. Two, when you decide that thing is ready to be shared with the entire world, you also make sure to share it with at least one person whose opinion really matters to you. The support and advice of a trusted friend or colleague is all the armor you need.
There’s more to it, of course - the creative business is roughly 99% cold, remorseless rejection (and some of that rejection is bitterly personal). You have to be content to beat your head against the wall for a very, very long time with little to no encouragement from the rest of the world. And you’ll build up a fine callous, to be sure, but you’re still going to have those days when you just feel like crying and self-destructing in an explosion of pizza and ice cream. But as long as you’re happy with what you’re creating (more or less), and you have a good group of people who are going through the same thing and can help shoulder the burden, it should keep things from getting too terribly dark. The sting will gradually fall off most of the negativity you get hit with until it eventually just becomes something you show to your friends and laugh at.
Robert is right, though. No matter how much time you spend perfecting something, or how much of your true, honest self you pour into it, someone out there is going to hate it with every fiber of their being. And they will take great steps to make sure that you, personally, know how much they hate that shitty piece of shit that you made. But, at least one person out there is really going to love that thing that you made. So what do you do?
You shouldn’t do things, because no matter how beautiful and perfect it turns out, somebody on the internet will notice one tiny, totally irrelevant mistake you made and they will shit all over you for it. Then everybody will upvote the shitter for shitting on you, as if to say “yes, shit on them. Shit all over them. Forever. Never stop shitting on them.”
You should probably just eat pudding out of a mixing bowl and die in your sleep instead.
"How dare you try to write jokes on the Internet that I can choose to read or not read for absolutely free! C’mon, guys! Let’s shit on this from safely atop our wall of risk-free armchair criticism!"
I read several dozen stories a year from miserable, lonely guys who insist that women won’t come near them despite the fact that they are just the nicest guys in the world.
..I’m asking what do you offer? Are you smart? Funny? Interesting? Talented? Ambitious? Creative? OK, now what do you do to demonstrate those attributes to the world? Don’t say that you’re a nice guy — that’s the bare minimum.
“Well, I’m not sexist or racist or greedy or shallow or abusive! Not like those other douchebags!”
I’m sorry, I know that this is hard to hear, but if all you can do is list a bunch of faults you don’t have, then back the fuck away..
..Don’t complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer. “But I’m a great listener!” Are you? Because you’re willing to sit quietly in exchange for the chance to be in the proximity of a pretty girl (and spend every second imagining how soft her skin must be)? Well guess what, there’s another guy in her life who also knows how to do that, and he can play the guitar. Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is “The actors are clearly visible”.
Not every filmmaker’s passion project turns out to be ‘Star Wars.’
Hey, I wrote a column about the time Hollywood enthusiastically supported George Lucas’s obviously terrible crusade to make Howard the Duck into a movie, because they thought everything George Lucas touched would transform into strippers and cocaine. Also, John Travolta spent two decades trying to bring Battlefield Earth to the silver screen, because it is difficult to keep your perspective after three Look Who’s Talking movies.
Dear Tom: Speaking of Superman, do you have an opinion on what could be done to make Superman as a character work in this century? The biggest complaints I hear about him are "he's too invincible" and "he's too generic."
That is an excellent question. I actually really like Superman, particularly when he’s being written by somebody like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, or Geoff Johns, because they go more into what it would be like to actually be Superman. Superman can crack the planet in half with an errant flex of his buttcheek, so right off the bat a huge portion of the population will never trust him (Lex Luthor, for example). It’s almost impossible for him to form meaningful connections with anyone. He’s a pretty lonely guy. He can literally do anything, so the question becomes, what shouldn’t he do? The man has no reason to hold himself back, he could be King of Earth if he wanted. One of my favorite Superman stories is Red Son, where he literally becomes King of Earth, more or less - he turns the whole planet into a police state, to prevent war and crime. He’s still the same basic character - wanting to do right and keep people safe from harm - but all it took was a small change in perspective to make him the worst dictator imaginable (an invincible dictator from space). Last Son of Krypton by Geoff Johns (and, sigh, Richard Donner) touches on this, too, when Superman finds out another little boy from Krypton landed on Earth and is being held in a government facility. Superman is so desperate to feel some connection with another being from his dead exploded homeworld that he barges in and steals the kid. He spent so much time trying to convince the military that he wasn’t a threat and would respect the law and all that, but rolls on them immediately the instant he finds out about this other Kryptonian. No negotiation, no diplomacy, just “Fuck you, gimme this.” So I guess that’s my answer to your question - the most interesting thing about Superman, to me, is how hard he struggles not to say “Fuck you, gimme this” every second of his life.
I know you're a Spiderman kinda guy but what would you say to a Batman vs Superman movie with Dominic West as Batman (played with a bit of Jimmy McNulty smarm), and Idris Elba as Superman, all quietly powerful and utterly fucking confident in himself? Could it work?
Idris Elba is the only good and interesting choice for Superman I’ve ever heard in my entire life.
Dominic West is good for Batman, but for a different Batman movie that I’d like to see someday. Like I want a Justice League movie where Batman has just been so beaten down and haunted from Batmanning that he’s just a cynical drunk. He still gets in the batsuit and tries to fight crime and everything, but he’s sloppier and destructive and the rest of the team doesn’t know what to do about him. They want to stop him but he did all of that great Batman stuff and they have so much respect for him and everything.
But Idris Elba as Superman. Man. Move over old sex dream, there’s a NEW cat in town.
How dare you make a movie this stupid and assume people would want to see more.
I wrote a column about terrible, stupid movies that inexplicably believed they were getting sequels. Like when Skeletor pops out of the water at the end of Masters of the Universe and says “I’ll be back!” No you won’t, Skeletor. It’s one of the most depressingly optimistic things ever, like listening to a child with bone cancer telling you what he’s going to be when he grows up.