Joy to the World

It turns out one of the more annoying side effects of COVID19 is some kind of temporary depression. Long-time readers will know I struggle with depression periodically anyways, so honestly, this symptom has been the most affecting for me. The good news in that is, as I’ve just implied, it’s not physically affecting me too much and I’m not one of those rare serious/terminal cases. The bad news is, I have to be very aware of what it does to my mental state. I don’t want to end up depressed for a year straight again. And hey, neither do you, since that’s been the root cause of every time I didn’t get any written content out for more than half a year.

Given this, I’ve been trying to take note of the things that make me happy, and what brings me joy. I think my reputation in online erotica circles makes me come across as a rather joyless person, and I suppose I have no one to blame but myself for that. From the outside, I can look like a very serious humorless person, especially in my blogs’ tone. Not only that, but I’m also a notoriously harsh critic, to the extent where people have asked for criticism on stories before and when I offered, they told me, “Um… no offense, but not you, if that’s okay.”

Firstly, I’m not offended. I find that kind of response hilarious, and plus, a lot of authors, especially those that have just started out, can be a bit sensitive and protective of their work. Fair enough, and good on them for being self-aware. Secondly, in my (slight) defense, I’m every bit as harsh a critic towards my own works as I am towards the works of others (at least I think I am). Thirdly, being this harsh a critic can sometimes give people this impression of not enjoying things. One reader, whose work I looked over, once asked me, “How have you written sex stories for years? You don’t seem to enjoy them at all.”

It’s so genuinely neat to hear this. I love stories. All kinds. Traditional books, online erotica, plays, TV, movies, video games, you name it. People have this idea that tearing something to shreds and pointing out every visible flaw means the person didn’t enjoy that, and while that is true in a lot of cases, it’s not true in mine. I could, and have, found flaws too numerous to count in stories and still enjoyed them. There are many sex stories, regular stories, and movies, that I “rip to shreds” in my mind every time I consume them, but I still love them and come back to them nonetheless. I think there’s this notion that joy equals total praise, and I couldn’t disagree more.

Bear with me on this one. Some of the best stand-up comedians aren’t people who design sets where you agree with them. They make their standup routines based around the fact you’re laughing at them. One of the bigger names in standup comedy, Rodney Dangerfield, had entire routines based around the fact that everyone in his life hates him. He brought joy to many, many people. A lot of these people were laughing at how pathetic the character was. A lot of people enjoy villains even though they don’t agree with their principles. A lot of people enjoy “so bad that it’s good” movies. Even moving away from contempt and patronization, people will laugh at children or be inspired by how ambitious they are when they try something they couldn’t possibly handle. Is every story a pathetic character or a dumb child to me? No. Hell no. That’s why I said ‘bear with me’ – this metaphor isn’t perfect, but I’m trying to demonstrate that things can give you joy without being masterpieces.

Being More Social is a shallow, trope-y mess filled with clichés and moments where 18-year-old-me thought he was being oh-so-clever. People can, and have, sent me pages of criticism aimed at that story. That said, the story has garnered millions of views across sites and people will still email me about it. Maybe even the people that sent me those pages didn’t just send me those pages of criticism in spite of them enjoying it, maybe they sent me those pages because they enjoyed it. At the very least, they cared.

I care deeply about stories and their characters. I’m heavily invested in everything. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m the kind of sap that feels things too deeply and I happen to both be a harsh critic and also an erotic author specializing in dialogue and communication. I get involved in everything on a deep emotional level (blessing and a curse). I don’t harshly criticize stories because they gave me no joy; I do it because stories give me joy and I involve my own self too deeply into them. At times, this can be a bad thing, and by critical eye has burned more than a few bridges in my time. But ultimately, no one has the right to tell you whether you enjoy things. That can only come from within. And by all means, if you tear things down because you don’t enjoy things, that’s destructive. Criticism’s purpose is to build better things. Sometimes you need to clear a pasture before erecting a tower, but creation needs to be the end goal, not destruction. And I love watching creation blossom.

Writing is hard when I have COVID. My apologies once again for the way things have turned out this month for me. I’m going to go back to sleep. I’ll talk you all again next week. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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