Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Merit Of Pure Enjoyment

We live in a hyper-critical time. You can find reviews for everything. Like seriously, everything. It used to be that books and plays and movies and restaurants got reviews, sure. But now it's gone full on crazy. You can review literally anything, when you think about it.

We've seen the Sugar Free 5lb Haribo Gummy Bears reviews. There are reviews for tools and towels and toys. There are reviews for convenience stores! Reviews for TOURIST LOCATIONS. I saw this post on Facebook about bad reviews of places like the Eiffel Tower and the St. Louis Arch and was like, "Really? I need to know what Jim Whoever thinks of the Eiffel Tower before I go to freaking Paris and see it myself???"

It's ridiculous, guys.

Our culture seems to be obsessed with "helpful criticism." Okay, sometimes it's just plain critical or even rude. Often when I'm online, I wonder why no one can just ENJOY something for once. It's always a "This movie would have been good if..." or "That game ruined the genre" or "That book is a great example of why publishing is stupid."

If I mention I'm watching or reading something, often I get a "How is it? Does it get better after this point cuz I stopped cuz ugh." People give live reactions as they watch a Netflix series...often not positive reactions because they aren't nearly as funny. People give out grades for a recent movie they saw, as if their opinion is law.

Why can't we just enjoy things?

I killed my own love of reading with hyper-criticism. I used to read a lot. Now, I can barely open a book without bringing a ton of baggage to the experience. Which sucks. I want to enjoy books again, but I spent so much time analyzing them and trying to unlock their "secrets to success" that now I am a giant ball of judgy.

People told me it would make me a better writer, to analyze all this stuff. Maybe it did. But at what cost? Do I really have to lose my love of consuming stories to tell them well?

I don't know the answers to this, but I made some decisions after this sad loss in my life. I decided there were going to be some story mediums that I WOULD NOT criticize. I would suspend my disbelief, embrace whatever the creators gave me, and find the entertainment in it all. I chose Kdramas and Anime for my safe and happy places.

You know what I learned by doing this? I learned you can embrace flaws and enjoy a story AND learn from it. We are so concerned with removing all flaws from our creative work, but in embracing those flaws I am starting to see why people are drawn to certain kinds of stories and mediums.

Spoiler: It has nothing to do with that story being perfect.

We as authors tend to want to craft the "perfect story," as if that is a possible thing to do. We also might think that if we achieve it, we will be more successful in some form. But I'm learning that's not true. I'm learning that people who love certain stories love them both for the great bits and the major flaws. Why? Because they suspend their disbelief and just roll with what is put before them. They embrace it. They know this is a tired amnesia plot—but they don't mind because they're having fun and that plot promises a great finish of remembering and likely kissing.

As I've spent my time exploring the merits of just enjoying something, I've learned or, perhaps, relearned, that stories are fun and amazing and rejuvenating. We often criticize them into the ground and look at them through not rose-colored glasses, but something more like dingy, sooty goggles.

Maybe take those goggles off for a bit and put on the glasses again. Turns out it doesn't hurt to enjoy stuff for a change.


  1. Yes, amen! I feel especially touchy about movies lately. I'm almost afraid to say I enjoyed certain recent movies (like Passengers, for example) because people will judge me for it! Nothing is perfect. I want to enjoy books and movies for the fun of it.

  2. I think this is why I've slowly pushed more and more "cooks out of my kitchen", so to speak. I'm tired of too many opinions muddling up my vision and enjoyment of what I'm doing or experiencing.

  3. My parents knew a man who could not go to a classical or choir concert without finding something to complain about.

  4. Ha, oh man. I read this just a couple hours after posting a critical snipe at Suicide Squad on Facebook. But you're right. We love to gripe about what we hate.

  5. I consider myself fortunate that writing--and reading to learn about writing--hasn't really killed my ability to enjoy. For me, analysis and enjoyment seem to happen on two different levels, with the analysis happening in a room that's a little deeper down. It's only when something big occurs--either really, really good ("Whoa, what an awesome description!") or really, really bad ("WTF??? That makes no sense!")--that a big flare goes up from the analysis room and pulls me out of the story.