18 January 2010

It's Only My Opinion

The rise of the internet has often been heralded as the rise of the common man. No longer are news, literature, and written communication in all its more general forms something that remain the exclusive domain of the rich, famous, or well-eductated. These days, anyone can - and does - have a say.

Nobodies can rise to fame in a matter of hours via youtube; authors who otherwise wouldn't stand a chance can develop a sales base through blogging and social networking.

Everyone can have a say.

The internet is a remarkable beast, one to which I owe a hearty portion of my life - keeping in contact with family and friends, finding support groups for my writing habits, devouring news and information - but all this makes me wonder: What's the value of an opinion?

In the days where anyone can have an opinion, where everyone is entitled to one, where any person can preach from the metaphorical rooftops and garner a following - what is such an opinion worth?

As writers, too often a large portion of our self esteem rests on what others think of us. Actually, that's true of everyone, regardless of occupation. A mentoring seminar I once attended gave the self esteem equation thusly:

Your Self Esteem = what YOU think people you CARE about THINK about YOU.

Convoluted, but totally true.

Writing is hard. Writing in a vacuum is really hard. I couldn't get to the end of my novels without the love and support and writing cookies and knocks on the head with admonishments to quit whining and write of my critique group - and they are all online.

But what about the critics? Not Critics, people who critique (or criticise, depending on your opinion :D) things for a living, but critics - the ones who live to tear people down. And yes, they can be the same thing :D And what's more, they can be unintentional.

In the age of the internet where everyone can not only hold an opinion, but can publish it to a wide audience too, someone, somewhere, is bound to make a hurtful remark about your writing at some point. Someone, somewhere, is bound to not only dislike it, but hate it - and they'll tell people about it.

What's the value of an opinion?

To whom do we entrust our self esteem?

Everyone can publish an opinion, whether they are trained in their field of critique or not. Does the level of education lend weight to the opinion? Someone who is uneducated in a field can be equally perceptive as someone who is; someone educated in a field can be just as ignorant in it as someone not.

What's the value of education?

Whose opinions matter?

I'm throwing these questions out here with little intent to answer them. The answers differ for everyone, for every situation; there's no one-size-fits-all. There rarely is, in life.

But the opinion of the people you trust matters to you. So what can you do about it?

Who do you trust? It's up to you.


Megs - Scattered Bits said...

I try to be more open to people who have been there, done that, like real published writers in the actual genre I'm interested in. I also like to pay attention to fellow aspiring writers whose work is good and I admire. If they have already succeeded, then their opinion holds some weight with me.

For opinions that don't make the trust list, I try to evaluate each comment and WHY they say what they say. If they have a legitimate point, I pull out that point, then ignore doggedly the sting from the rest of what they said, even if it means rationalizing it all away in my head until I can finally, FINALLY let go.

Wulf said...

Opinions are a bit like game sign. You find them here and there, they make great hints that "something" is out there and it's roughly "so big."

But trying to decide exactly what, how long ago, and exactly where it's heading? Based one one track? That's a waste of time.

I feel the same about critiques and feedback; it's interesting, sometimes entertaining. Now, when you get more than you can count on a single hand, all in agreement... well, that's something to give serious consideration.

Danyelle said...

Great definition of self-esteem. :)

The people on my trust list, aren't always people I know. For me to trust someone's opinion, it needs to be thought out, it's needs to say something and not simply unadulterated love, hate, or scorn. The interesting thing that I've noticed is that educated-type thinking (does not always require a degree) is not necessarily as loud, but it's a lot more respected by people in general.

Spammy said...

Wow! This was an amazing post. I can totally relate. If there were a personification of Opinion he/she would be the most varying, fickle, most loving, most hateful, most critical kiss-arse there ever was.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I'll take on board anyone's opinion and look for new ideas to try. Sometimes information from a novice (in any field) can be easier and more fun to digest because the source is geniunly excited about the topic and they know which bits a newbie needs.

Inkblot said...

Megs - Thanks for commenting! :) I think your method of analysing comments that don't make the cut makes sense and is a good way to do it.

Wulf - lol, fantastic metaphor. I'll have to remember that one :D And I totally agree, which is why I always like to get second and third opinions on my work.

Dany - hmm, popularity versus respect, interesting dichotomy. I like. And I think you make a good point too about rejection opinions that are unadulterated gush-love as much as the ones that are pure hate. A good opinion should be balanced, I agree.

Spammy - rofl! I love your personification of Opinion. *cookies*

Charm - Great point! I think that often when you've been doing something for a Really Long Time it can be hard to think back to the days when you were just starting out and to remember what it felt like, what the challenges were, etc etc. Random thought - this strikes me as similar to thinking back to childhood, so I wonder if people who write YA, who are good at repositioning themselves and remembering how they felt at that point and what life was like... I wonder if they are also good teachers, good at remembering what it was like to be a beginner? Hmm. *ponder ponder*

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