In my rare free moments in the last few weeks, I’ve been checking out TV Tropes. It’s a really addictive website, easy to get lost on, but I always find myself most drawn to reading not the pages about in-story tropes, but rather the ones about the creative process. I’ve always been fascinated by process, the ways people go about making stories, so I’ve been reading the pages about how authors went about making their work, the influences that factored into the story design, even the way fans and critics reacted and what effect that had.
Fans are wonderful; I’d like to develop a following of them myself. But because of their plural nature, they often have many disparate opinions. I believe it’s important to consider outside assessments of your work, as new sets of eyes can see things you haven’t. But it can be confusing and frustrating when they’re telling you all sorts of conflicting things that you could not possibly reconcile with any quality. I have a tendency to imagine what I would do if I were experiencing a certain situation, so I have found myself preoccupied with how I would respond if I have a large fanbase that had multiple incompatible opinions of my work. It’s rather putting the cart before the horse in my case, as I’m still building my fanbase, but I hope to get there someday, and I’d like to deal with it well when I do.
On one hand, you have to stand up for the things in your work you believe in. A good writer has a certain expertise, and that usually includes good instincts on what makes the most dramatic action. Fans sometimes more out of emotional connection to a work– which is by no means a criticism, as their emotional connection is the most satifying thing a writer can achieve –but a lot of the time they like, want, or criticize things out of sentimentality, rather than what makes for the highest-stakes story.
At the same times, an author’s perspective is inherently limited by the fact that they are one person and they are humanly imperfect. Fans, by virtue of the fact that they are different people and they may be myriad, will have perspectives that are beyond the author. Therefore they may be able to point out problems the writer isn’t necessarily aware of. The ability to take criticism and incorporate other perspectives is how a serious writer improves their art, and you want to show respect to the people who have been good enough to invest their time and emotional resources in your work.
The key, I think, would be to not let yourself lose sight of the idea of that you cannot please everybody. I can see myself getting too wrapped up in the fact that some people weren’t happy. You can only do the best work you possibly can, which means listening to what people have to say in good faith, and using your own good judgment as to what to take to heart and what to let go. Of course the solution is, as always, balance. But God knows how hard balance can be to attain.